The dew makes the air cool and crisp on an autumn morning. An elf is crouched down in some brush in the beautifully colored orange, yellow, and red forest. The hot seasons are normally moist in the elven forests, allowing the foliage bright and vibrant colors in this time of the season. The elf gazes through some shrubbery at a majestic elk that is walking through a glen in the midst of the forest. Leaves crunch beneath the elk’s hooves as it comes to a stop to graze. As the sun comes over the horizon behind the animal, it gives the elk an omniscient glow.
“This shot must strike well. Your graduation is dependent on it Aeremar. You’ve tracked the elusive creature here, now you must finish the quest.” The young elf thinks to his self as he rustles the feathers on his already nocked-to-the-string-arrow with the leather fingers of his shooting glove. Aeremar’s long, shiny brown hair reaches the bend in his back. He wears all brown leather armor to resemble his rank. His armor consists of a tunic, leather pants, both with darker colored armor pads, and dark boots that are folded over at the top. His cloak is tied around his neck with the bottom resting on the ground and his hood hidden under his hair. His bow is light colored wood with simple elven designs on the arms. His wooden quiver, under his cloak, puts his arrows over his shoulder, and his sword sheathes line the back of his belt with his sword hilts at each hip.
“With this last test, your graduation to the green class will be set and you can finally begin assignments in a regiment.” As he finishes his thoughts, he clears his mind and takes a deep breath. Another elf holds out a vial of venom toward Aeremar.
“Coat your arrow with this paralytic venom and your target will not flee.” One of Aeremar’s ranger trainers whispers. He is dressed similar to Aeremar, but his armor is dyed orange. His orange armor signifies his rank as a trainer with the elven ranger program.
“It’s extracted from the spiders that dwell on Mount Octentul. It will not kill your prey; only stun it to keep it from escaping. So your shot must be what is lethal.”
Aeremar nods his head and as slowly and as quietly as possible, lowers his two-blade broadhead into the liquid. He takes another deep breath with his eyes closed. He opens his eyes, pulls up his bow, and draws back the string in one motion.
“Remember to breathe. You have but one shot at this.” He thinks. He looks down the arrow at his target.
“She’s about twenty turs away.” He thinks. He places the tip of the arrow a little over the creature’s back, lets out his breath, and looses his arrow. There is a quiet thunk of the string, a rustle of the brush as the arrow flies through, quiet for a split second, then a thud as the arrow hits its mark. The elk lets out a quick grunt before falling to the ground.
“Excellent shot.” Aeremar’s trainer exclaims as he stands to his feet. Aeremar, however, remains close to the ground.
“Why do you not rejoice? You have passed your brown armor rank.” The trainer asks as he looks to the direction of Aeremar’s awestruck gaze. There is a silhouette of a large feline prowler staring back at the elves in the sunrise’s light. It’s now evident that the elves were not the only ones hunting the animal. The trainer jumps out in front of Aeremar, reaches back to draw an arrow, and shouts,
“Aeremar, get back to the castle!” Aeremar stumbles to his feet as he begins to sprint away. He looks over his shoulder and sees the beast swinging his mighty paw and knocking the trainer back into some bushes before the trainer can pull an arrow to shoot the beast.
As the cat lunges to attack the already fallen elf, it is struck mid-leap by Aeremar’s arrow. It falls to the ground but the shot only dazes the animal for a second before it begins sprinting toward Aeremar. The arrow tears from its side as it strikes a tree during the beasts advance.
Everything seems to move in slow motion. Aeremar can hear every leaf crunch as the large predator approaches him. He hears his heart thud loudly in his ears, and it feels as if it is going to leap from his chest. For the first time he has gotten a good look at the beast. “Sabretooth,” his thought echoes in his ears. He realizes the animal is approaching too quickly for him to have time to shoot another arrow, so he pulls the string to his bow and pins himself between the bow and the string. In one solid motion, as if instinctual, Aeremar grabs the swords from his back at his hips and spins them blade up in his hands. He fluidly side-steps as the beast lunges at him and he slices it across the ribs with both swords. The tiger lands on its feet and spins back toward Aeremar to attack again.
“Thrusts over slashes,” his trainer’s words rang in his ears, “slashes leave flesh wounds, thrusts land killing blows.”
By the time he finishes the thought, the feline has closed the distance between them. As it leaps toward Aeremar’s waist, he jumps over the cat in an aerial flip. His cloak flutters and while in mid flip, he spins his body and runs the swords through both of the cat’s sides. As they are still falling Aeremar pulls the swords back, spins them down in his hands, slides them back in his sheath, and lands in a knelt position in one motion while the cat’s body lands with a thud. Without hesitation, he rises from his knees in a sprint toward his fallen trainer. He glimpses at the sabertooth tiger as he passes over it for signs of life. His ranger training has taught him to be able to detect life in a creature in a blink. “Finished,” he thinks as he now begins to focus on helping the elf in the brush.
He reaches the trainer and realizes that he is badly injured, but not fatally. The trainer’s armor is torn at his side and reveals a deep wound underneath. Aeremar turns to the woods and yells “Saeldur!” The morning mist in the woods accumulates into the form of a green owl that flies over to Aeremar and lands on his arm. Its eyes glow a bright blue, and its feathers are an emerald green. He says something to the ghostly looking animal in elvish, and it looks over his shoulder at the deceased elk, then the sabretooth, then flies off toward the castle. The elves have been taught from birth to respect wildlife and nature, so Saeldur is sent to summon gatherers to retrieve the animals for food as well as proof of Aeremar’s achievement.
He bends over the writhing elf to speak to him. “I will take you back to the castle so someone can heal your wounds. Stay with me.” The trainer’s eyes are beginning to glaze over as he nods in response to Aeremar’s command.
“You’ve always been ahead of your class Aeremar,” his trainer mutters, as if trying to reserve strength,”I am confident in the hands my life has been placed.” Aeremar looks over his shoulder and whistles a tune toward the edge of the forest. A faint ‘neigh’ is heard in the distance and in moments his large, white horse is upon them. She has an elegant, green cloth draped over her back with gold embroidery and a beautiful leather saddle with elvish designs lining it on top of the cloth. He quickly runs over to the horse and jerks the cloth out from under the saddle on her back. He grabs three logs from the forest and attaches the cloth to the logs. “This should support him,” he thinks as he takes some rope from a bag on the horse and fastens his make shift gurney to her saddle. He drags the trainer onto the material and pulls a vial of liquid from a pouch attached to his belt.
“Ah, Sumpletine.” The trainer says as he coughs,”I’m heartened to know you expect me to survive.”
“Take this so you can sleep without pain while we travel home for help.” Aeremar says as he pours the liquid into the trainer’s mouth.
“I’m proud of the way you handled that beast, Aeremar. You are truly wor…” The trainer’s words trail off as he slips into a sleep from the medicine. Aeremar speaks to the horse in elvish and she begins walking back toward the castle. Aeremar walks alongside the horse instead of riding her to keep from slowing her down with more weight. He and his equine companion keep a hastened pace as they walk through the beautiful wood. The cool breeze and the beautiful scenery helps to keep Aeremar calm as he takes on his crucial task.
While walking down the trail, Aeremar is startled by a twig snapping on the forest floor. He quickly pulls his bow from his back, nocks an arrow to his string, and readies himself for battle.