The Archer

Written: 2012

Setting: High Fantasy

The night was dark, and the eerie moon faintly illuminated the twisting path that the Archer was on; looping around the mountain in irregular arcs that in no way held regard for those who would pass over it safely. The mountain overlooked many smaller mountains, which eventually ran out into a plain within which a large city sat, framed on all sides by fires that burned dangerously in the moonlight. It made it look as if the fires would soon engulf the city, and for sure they would if the Archer did not accomplish her mission.

Her mission was to slip through the mountains to find help for the proud but beleaguered city of her’s that lie below. With no provocation the monsters had swept down from the Northern Mountains like a tide, sweeping away all before them, until now they finally sat at the city’s gates, patiently waiting until the defenders inside starved, or gave them the slightest opportunity to invade and finish their work.

She turned her head from her city back to the path, and continued along. They still didn’t know what made the monsters invade before she left, and so she would be going to the cities that lay on the other side of the mountains delivering her plea for help, and a dire warning, should the monsters cross these mountains as well and get to them.

The Vilarians might be able to repel such a force, but not if half their empire was invaded before they could bring their forces to bear. She didn’t know what the other nations would do. She had grown up in her little city, sheltered from the rest of the known world by mountains and distance. She knew nothing of the politics that she would soon be dealing with and so she could only hope, and pray that she would be able to deliver her message unscarred to the people that needed to hear it.

A faint noise broke the sounds of the night, making her tense and raise her bow. It had been the sound of pebbles and rock, and it had sounded from up ahead of her. She turned the corner to find a hulking figure standing on the rock. It was one of the monsters she thought. She had seen them from a distance, but even standing in the dark they were much more menacing up close. It’s body was lean, and large. Standing about eleven handspans tall, it was all muscle. It’s skin was similar to human’s, but shown a pale green color in the night’s light.

It’s head was what set it the most apart though. It had red eyes like slits that slanted down it’s face in the place where a human’s eyes would be. It’s nose had barely a bulge, and was more similar to two holes than anything else. It had hair, but only knots of it on each side of it’s head, bundled into types of braides, with a large black ponytail on the back of it’s head. They all had black hair, no matter how they arranged it. To complete it’s horrible visage it had no lips, and instead had bulges coming out of each side of it’s mouth. These bulges were tipped by sharp teeth that rested against each other in full view.

Not wanting to give it a chance to smell her, for that nose belied a strong sense of smell, she slowly raised her bow to take aim at the beast’s head. Just as she was nocking back the arrow to shoot, taking great care in not making a sound, the monster turned it’s head towards her. Shocked she immediately let her arrow loose, taking the beast just below the chin as it faced her, gurgling from the blood that was now flooding it’s throat.

While one clawed green hand was clutching the thing’s throat however, the other went to the weapon on it’s side at once, a curved dagger used for close fighting. Just as it’s hand closed around the dagger however, her second arrow hit its arm, knocking it back and causing the monster to grunt in pain. After a moment more of struggling to move towards her, blood burst through the hand the beast had been using to shield it’s throat. As the blood from the throat poured down it’s chest, the monster’s red eyes finally dulled to a grey as it fell to the ground, dead.

After staring at it a moment to make sure it really was dead, she scanned the path ahead of her for any other monsters. The beast hadn’t made much noise before it died, but there was always the chance of one of it’s brethren smelling out it’s death. That was what she was trying to avoid. To confuse their scents a little bit, she dragged the beast to the edge of the cliff, then pushed it off. Let that confuse their noses.

As she wiped her hands off on a bit of cloth and stone to get the smell of the beast off, she remembered during their brief altercation how just before it died, the beast’s eyes had changed color, from red to grey. Did they always do that? She thought. She hadn’t noticed that before, but she filed it away for future reference. It might be useful to know whether that was normal for them or not in the future. She sighed. She should probably keep moving. She was staying there too long, and no matter how much she wanted to think that there was no one behind her, she didn’t want to take that chance.

She moved along silently, not disturbing a single rock or pebble. No one was as silent as her, or she wouldn’t have been able to sneak up on that monster before, or the two before it, and as much as she loved killing these things, it was much better in the interest of speed if she could simply avoid them. As she slid down a slope to get to the next path, her hood fell off, exposing a pair of brown eyes and hair of the same color tied up in a ponytail behind her head.

She pulled it back up. She couldn’t afford getting cold she told herself, as her slow breaths turned to visible mist in front of her. She couldn’t afford to do anything that would slow her down. At least not until the mountains ended. Then she should be able to relax a while, but until then she had to be alert and ready for every possibility.

She breathed another cold breath and looked up at the stars. She found which one she was following immediately, buring brightly in the sky, and figured out which way she had to eventually end up going from there. There was a small forest just a little ways below her that seemed to be going in that direction. After evaluating the path on the same way on the mountain and taking a look at the seeming impassable terrain, she decided that the forest was the best idea.

Just as she made her way to the edge of the forest, she realized that it would be much easier for her to get ambushed in the forest rather that the mountain because of the cover. She would have to hope that her woodsman skills would be enough to get her through it unharmed. As she progressed through the forest, ice-tipped trees and even a trickling stream, she made it to what looked like a campsite. After examining the fire pit and surrounding area she realized that it was possible that this was from one of the refugees in the towns farther to the North.

After looking around and still not seeing anybody, however, she was forced to conclude that he or she was no threat to her, so long as they kept their distance while she progressed along. Time to head through the forest. It would hopefully bring her all the way through the mountains, from what she had seen from her vantage point earlier. She did have to find somewhere to sleep during the day though. She couldn’t risk traveling in broad daylight when it would be much easier for the monsters’ scouts to see her from the mountains.

From what she could see there was only another hour until daylight, and the little hints of dawn were already starting to show over the peaks of the mountains around her. She had to find shelter, and fast. She considered for a moment sleeping in a tree or a group of bushes, but ultimately decided on a small jagged outcropping of rock that was hard for her to squeeze into but that would hide her very well as she slept.

Setting down the sleeping mat on her back, she opened the small pack she was carrying to reveal what was inside. There was a letter, that she had to deliver to the head of whatever civilization she came across first. Food, though only enough to sustain her for a few more days. There were also the arrows in her quiver, and also a small amount of silver coins, hopefully enough to sustain her once she got to civilization again and found employment in an army. If no one would offer an army to help the city, and she didn’t think that anyone would, then she would humbly request a position in their army, where hopefully she would be able to fight against these monsters that destroyed her home.

As she lay down to go to sleep, she couldn’t help a bitter smile from forming on her face at the thought of killing off all the beasts herself.


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