The beginning of my latest novel attempt, inspired by my thoughts two years ago when I was ten. Here she is!
Fantasy stood under the shade of a large oak. The sun was shining brightly but its heat failed to reach the atmosphere. He shivered slightly.
“Men, we have been at this for weeks now,”
The ten men in front of him nodded from beneath their coifs.
“Rangerhood, we are strong, we are mighty, and soon we must prepare for war,”
The men in front of him cheered loudly, with sense of anticipation.
“Train we must, but I feel we have been doing so for so long that we are prepared,”
He pictured memories of years ago when the city of Elost was besieged by the goblins. The city went into war-mode, citizens were armed and told to fight with whatever form of sword and shield they could gather. Ironically, the trained army’s archers were dismissed as their arrows were, apparently, insufficiently powerful.
Most of the archers bowed to the king’s and general’s orders. Most archers. A small group of men denied the authority’s rule and went underground, fighting the goblins under their own accord. And they were successful.
The “Rangerhood” as they called themselves singlehandedly defended the east wall of Elost, in which pretty much assured the city’s victory.
The king, embarrassed, and in fright of mutiny destroyed all traces of this occurrence – witnesses were either killed or forced into swearing never to recount the detail to anyone.
Half of the Rangerhood left in fear for their life, and another quarter killed.
Now, only eleven remained.
The ground below was rough and bare of grass. Large mountains loomed behind, their points disappearing into the ghostly mist that floated high in the air. Thousands of trees dotted their surfaces like green paint.
Miles of land stretched ahead, un-even and randomly spotted with trees – mostly dead.
The air was still and Fantasy’s words seemed to be quickly dismissed by the environment as if they were unwanted.
A bird soared over head, its white feathers melting into the sky and blinding Fantasy as he looked up. It flew past them, chirping. It winged low over the trees ahead, than turned around and soared into the sky towards them.
He stared at it in awe. Its flight seemed perfect, and much more graceful than anything he had seen before. It neared them at tremendous pace before dipping down over their heads and flying in circles around them.
It stopped chirping and circled in silence. Now the whole group stared at it.
At last it stopped circling and flew down, right towards Fantasy.
“What the?” he gasped as the bird landed on his shoulder, piercing the skin slightly with its sharp talons.
“Look,” said Powell, a tall man dressed in full rangers outfit like the rest – coif, chain mail, quiver, vambraces and chaps along with maple bow and steel arrows, “It has something in its claws!”
The bird had a piece of paper strung around its left claw. Fantasy pulled it off carefully and opened it.
A thin, spidery writing was scrawled across the paper.
“Your men of power, are men of trait – fighting, wood-cutting, fishing. But soon one of them shall be adding the mining of ore to their trait,” Fantasy read.
The assembly was quiet, bar the chirping bird that wheeled back into the sky. He watched as it flew into the distance. After a few seconds it disappeared into the mountains.
The Rangerhood were silent.
“It makes no sense,” said Yogor, a burly man with a long brown beard protruding from his chin, “we are in time of war, not time for mining or wood-cutting or fishing or other ways of making wealth!”
“Indeed,” said Fantasy, “but at the moment, I think the real question is, who sent the bird?”
“Perhaps some lunatic,” said Liam, one of the finest archers in the Rangerhood, “who entertains his self by sending armed men practical jokes,”
“Scarcely a practical joke,” said Rafael, “its not funny, and seems to be some vague prediction of our future!”
“Maybe it is a prophet – a real prophet – who can predict our future, perhaps we survive this war and live on to making money once more,” said Julian.
“We wish,” a tall slender figure named Ben dismissed, “I agree with Liam, it is probably some odd person who is having some fun,”
Fantasy thought, and made a decision, “We are going to head towards the mountains, if we can get up there before the warriors arrive we can snipe them from above where they are helpless,”
“So it’s a race?” asked Liam.
“Yes, if we can get to the mountains before the opposition get through the Gap, we have won this battle!”
The assembly nodded in agreement.
“What of the letter?” asked Simon – who had been silent so far.
Fantasy paused, “Well, for now I shall ponder its meaning, but we shan’t let it hinder our journeys, time is the essence,”
Journey was restless, and silent. No-one disturbed the hush
that hung in the air like the mist over the mountains. All that could be heard was the quiet sound of their boots on the dirt and rocks below. Like an ostinato their hypnotic treads soothed their minds and allowed Fantasy to think.
The message seems fairly straight forward he contemplated but something strikes me odd about it, more so than the fact that it was given to us by a bird.
The air was heating up slowly around them and their walking brought up a few beads of sweat to his brow.
He and his men were fit, however, and such travel was not alien to them. The mountain seemed ever far away from them, and its ominous pose captured his thoughts.
Where to if we arrive at the mountain before the warriors?
He explored the green dots that enveloped the mountain for a crag or clearing but none seemed to exist.
He decided to worry about it later and thought once more about the message.
The second line, especially, seems odd, but I can’t think why…
A small animal scuttled across their path and away into some bushes beside them.
Fantasy wiped his wet brow and cleared his mind for a second, trying to concentrate on walking. But it could not work. The message resonated throughout his mind, like the town bell – he knew it was ringing, which meant something important, or even dangerous was occurring, but he knew not what that was and still had to goto the town centre to find out. He needed to find his mind’s town centre – the part of his self that knew there was something more sinister in the midst.
But soon one of them shall be adding the mining of ore to their trait he read the deterring line to himself and noted the common use of the word “trait” in the entire message Does it mean anything?
The mining and selling of ore, especially gold, was a useful and effective means of making money in Elost. The Rangerhood, however of yet could not use it as a means of income as all the known mines were too busy and if they were to mine there, they could be discoved.
Perhaps, it is a prophecy that we shall find our own mine?
Most of the Rangerhood’s money came from chopping wood, or fishing and selling produce anonymously to trusted merchants.
Unlikely, and in any case, why should we believe this far-fetched foretelling anyway?
The sun was dropping behind the mountains and night was quickly approaching. A small outcrop of trees lay ahead, providing shelter for the night.
It says “one of them” Fantasy noted Perhaps this means that one of us will betray our rules and go mining in a crowded mine?
The fact that there was no reason to trust whatever prediction the message made in the first place gnawed at the back of his mind, like the temptation to sleep through the town bell. But the bell kept ringing until it was un-ignorable.
Maybe it was sent by the Warriors, to worry us and therefore slow our travels down He thought, before sharing his view with the others.
“Yes, that must be it!” said a small man named Ester.
“Maybe,” the only female in the group, Isabelle, agreed.
Fantasy listened to the teams observations in silence – the air was getting cooler and he rubbed his hands together.
“It may be so,” said Powell, “but would they not send something more ominous, other than telling us that we will find a mine,”
“Yes, they probably would have told us that one of us is a spy or something,” agreed Yogor.
“No, I don’t think so, I think Fantasy is correct!” Ester said.
“Silence!” Fantasy said, “if it is true, then let it not work, let us continue our travels normally,”
Still, the bell rang, and he decided that the previous suggestion was like dismissing a town bell as a false alarm. For the bell kept ringing, and now his curiosity was enticed.
They arrived at the outcrop and settled down for the night. Ester, Powell and Liam went out to hunt for food as the rest gathered wood for a fire.
Before long, a tall blaze was flickering in the gentle night breeze and fresh rabbit was hung across it on a stick, slowly cooking.
An aroma filled the air and along with the heat, restored cheer to the group.
Songs were sung, most about the goblin war and others about after they had won this battle.
Fantasy sat silently, his skin absorbing the warmth graciously as his mind raced towards the town bell that continually resonated in his head. He methodically scanned the second, intriguing line.
It is oddly, written, as if it is concealing something. Why not say, and soon one of you will go mining.
He looked up to find the rabbit cooked and being cut by Isabelle into chunks of tender meat. His stomach rumbled.
It must be concealing something!
Isabelle handed him his share of meat and he chewed on it, his appetite dimmed by his thoughts. He decided to highlight the oddly placed words in his mind.
The repetition of “trait” is odd.
He repeated the word a few times in his head, searching for an alternative meaning.
It is also queer how it uses the word “adding”, it seems unnecessary.
He realised he had finished his rabbit and threw the remaining bone into the fire.
There is also another thing, why say the mining of ore? What else is there to mine these days?
He had come up with a list of things, and grinned in satisfaction
Trait, adding, ore….
Then it hit him. He shivered in a sudden jolt of fear, and his eyes widened in realisation.
Trait plus ore. Traitor.
He froze, and stared around warily at the group. He couldn’t decide whether this message was trust-worthy, but the fact that it might be concerned him.
He decided not to mention it to anyone, and analyze them as they continued the journey. That way, if the message was true, he had a chance of discovering the traitor, and if it was not, than journey would continue per normal.
His eyes glazed over as he scanned the Rangerhood. Their cheery faces and joyful singing touched his heart like ice and he exhaled a deep breath. He still couldn’t believe what he was about to do – survey his own team.
The air no longer felt warm and cheery – his conscious flooded his body and felt as cold as freezing water.
He said goodnight to his peers and went to sleep – his thoughts as dark as the blackness beneath is closed eyelids.
He woke the next morning to a chilly breeze. The rest of the Rangerhood were still asleep. He tried to rest but couldn’t and so he stood up and set out to gather wood for a morning fire.
He scanned the floor for kindling and gathered what he found into a small bunch in his hand. He heard a noise above and looked up quickly.
A white bird sped around the sky, the bird from before. It began to descend, and it neared Fantasy at much pace. He let it land on his shoulder and he patted its gleaming white feathers gently.
Once more, its leg bore a message. He untied a small piece of paper and opened it gently. It bore the same spidery writing.
The bird flew up into the sky, and flew once more into the mountains.
Fantasy looked around nervously. He decided he would not show anyone this message, incase the traitor (if there was one) was alerted to the fact that someone was on to him. He shivered at this thought, as once more, ice touched his heart.
Like last time, the writing was by no means pellucid. It was a riddle.
He read it to himself aloud, “The opposition, Miles, is away, a tenth the start of his name,”
This, makes less sense than the last he thought.
He folded the paper and slid it into his pocket, before walking back to where they were camped. No-one was awake yet, and so he gathered the kindling he had found before and lit it. The fire burned brightly and he warmed his hands until they began to hurt above it. For a second, he considered burning the message - which he could feel against his leg.
What if it is true? I shan’t burn it!
He sat, daring not to think about it as he awaited the arousal of the rest of the group. After a few minutes, Isabelle woke up, and joined Fantasy by the fire.
“How did you sleep?” he asked, feeling a strong urge in his mind to tell her about the note.
“Well,” said Isabelle, “How ‘bout yourself?”
“Alright,” Fantasy said, scratching his head.
A puzzled expression passed Isabelle’s face, but left as soon as it arrived.
She looked up at the mountains, “They are so beautiful aren’t they?”
Fantasy paused, “I guess so,”
“Are you alright?” Isabelle queried, turning to face him.
“Yes,” he lied.
Her face was beautiful in the dim light of the fire. He sighed, a deep breath, contemplating.
They had been friends since their childhood, he could trust her. And so he told her everything.
Fantasy pulled the note out from his pocket and handed it to her. She was doubtful, mainly due to the fact that the letters bore no reason to be believed.
She scanned the letter quickly, before looking up at Fantasy.
“Do you think Myles possibly could be a traitor?” he said nodding at the sleeping figure of a man, lying opposite the fire.
“I have two problems,” Isabelle said.
“But it says it clearly, your opposition, Myles,”
“But it doesn’t,” Isabelle said calmly.
Fantasy disputed, showing her again the line.
“But, you see, it says ‘Miles’, not ‘Myles’”
Fantasy nodded, “I guess, but what does the rest mean, it is indiscernible,”
Someone yawned, and Fantasy turned to see Ben standing up and walking towards them. He slipped the note into his pocket and glanced at Isabelle.
“Nothing,” he quickly whispered, before turning to Ben, “Morning,”
Ben nodded in agreement, and sat down beside Isabelle.
“We should wake the rest up,” Isabelle said, standing up.
“How – “ Fantasy was pushed aside by Isabelle as she began to sprint towards the line of sleeping men. She stepped on the hand of Yogor, who was lying at the start of the line. He woke with a start, much to the amusement of Ben and Fantasy. She continued down the line, stepping on painful and awkward parts of the body until a group of aching men were standing around the fire, staring coldly at Isabelle.
They ate a small breakfast, consisting merely of water and bread.
Before long they set out again. It was a chilly morning and they walked slowly. He chose not to think about the notes that day and concentrated instead getting closer to the mountain.
He wondered where the warriors were and who had the advantage.
Then rocks started to fall from the sky. They all looked up in surprise. A flock of black birds flew in a kite like formation, swooping over head in perfect synchronization.
From their claws, dropped rocks, that plummeted down to ground. The Rangerhood took cover beneath trees.
Fantasy pulled an arrow from his quiver, pulled his bow back and fired the arrow towards the sky. It flew into the midst of the group, hitting a bird that dropped down from the sky dead.
The flock didn’t hesitate, swooping back over head and dropping another round of rocks. Now, the entire group had caught their sense and fired a volley of arrows at the flock.
The birds retreated, flying into the distance at incredible pace. Yogor stepped into the clearing.
“Get back!” Fantasy yelled desperately.
The birds lunged back overhead, dropping another round of rocks. Yogor was in the open and vulnerable but Fantasy was already by his side, tackling him into the bushes beside them as rocks smashed into the ground behind their feet.
The Rangerhood fired another volley into the murder – arrows soaring high into the sky, before returning to the ground embedded in the hearts of birds.
The flock was weakened and only a few birds survived. They flew into the distance, not to come back.
The assembly gathered carefully beneath a large willow.
“Crows,” muttered Liam.
“Yes,” Fantasy agreed, “but who were they sent by, crows have not been known to be allies with the King,”
“If anyone, the goblins,” said Isabelle.
“Surely not,” Myles shook his head, “they have no reason to aid the Kingdom, especially after the war,”
“But we are the cause of their loss, not the King,” said Yogor, “maybe they allied with him in order to destroy us,”
“The King isn’t that foolish!” Isabelle retorted, “If it weren’t for the goblins, then there would never be us as a ‘problem’”
“I agree,” Fantasy said, “ The King would never truce with the goblins, and I don’t think the goblins sent those crows,”
“If not them, then who?” Powell queried.
“It has to be the King, he must have got the crows on his side,”
The assembly remained silent for a few seconds before Fantasy broke it, “I think we should camp here for tonight, although be sure to sleep beneath a tree and be wary and prepared,”
“I concur,” Julian nodded, “it is getting dark, and we are tired,”
They began to settle down, each finding a suitable tree for shelter.
“Me and Fantasy shall go search for kindling,” announced Isabelle, much to Fantasy’s surprise.
They set out into the trees in silence, until the camp was out of hearing range.
“I think I have something,” Isabelle said.
“I certainly don’t” Fantasy sighed, “but go ahead,”
“I noticed the different spelling of ‘Myles’ before,” she began, “and I am led to believe that that it is intentional,”
“So whoever wrote the note wanted to use the word ‘miles’”
“Precisely,” Isabelle said, “and from there on I deduced that by the phrase ‘your opposition, miles’ it is telling us how far away from the mountain the warriors are”
“Alright, but if so, it doesn’t actually say how far,”
“Yes it does, a tenth the start of his name, a tenth of the first letter in his name!”
“But how can you have a tenth of ‘M’?”
“’M’ is the Roman Numeral for one thousand, a tenth of one thousand is one hundred!”
“So, our opposition is one hundred times miles away,”
“Yes, one hundred miles away,”
“Sometimes you amaze me Isabelle,” Fantasy smiled.
“But can we trust this, I cannot get over the fact that we have a traitor in our midst,”
“Neither, but whoever is sending us these messages seems to be quite knowledgeable on the subject, he seems to be monitoring everything,”
Fantasy leant over to grab a bunch of kindling from the ground, handing some to Isabelle before getting some more, “I think we should return, but this is quite intriguing,”
“It is indeed,” Isabelle said turning and walking back towards camp.
Mist was settling around their camp as they returned. The groups eyes brightened when they pictured a fire burning brightly in their middle.
They gathered the kindling in a large group and soon a fire was lit. Some of the men had set out while Fantasy and Isabelle were away to catch another rabbit, and now it burnt slowly over the blaze.
The tree loomed over their shoulders as they ate the rabbit. No-one spoke or sang in joy that night and instead a sullen silence hung over camp.
Everyone went to sleep early that night. Fantasy was restless and found it hard to fall into any form of slumber.
He stared at the night sky. Stars twinkled brightly in a mystical fashion and Fantasy wondered whether he would see the white bird fly across the sky, or more sinisterly, a black bird. But none did and soon he fell asleep.
The next morning he woke with a start. It was still fairly dark and Fantasy felt an odd feeling in his stomach. He looked around carefully, his eyes searching the darkness as far as they could travel.
Nothing seemed to lurk. He settled back down on the ground, trying to fall asleep again, but the silence was too ominous.
He sat upright, his eyes more wide in fear. He looked around once more. His body tingled, he knew something was there.
He strained his eyes but could see nothing. He reached for his bow and quiver, drew the string – standing up.
His spine tingled rapidly. He heard a noise behind him and quickly turned around. Nothing.
He was breathing heavily and with each breath he felt his lung fill with fear.
Another noise behind him, he turned, bow up. Nothing. His stomach churned, his lungs full with fear. Another noise to his side. He turned just as a large wolf leapt from the bushes. Its claws protruded like shining swords from its paws and were outstretched ahead of the beast.
He released an arrow that lodged itself in a tree behind the beast and ducked under the flying animal.
It landed behind him on its four paws. He turned quickly, another arrow outstretched. It snarled at him. He quickly pulled the arrow back and fired.
It hit its target, right between the wolves eyes. The beast released an ear piercing squeal before slumping to the ground. Fantasy collapsed to the floor aswell, no goblin or soldier could have prepared him for that.
The rest were aroused by the squeal and were quick and eager to ask him all about it. He recounted the details and everyone was eager to leave the place.
Before very long they were walking again. The mountains were far away but they certainly had an advantage over the warriors, even if they had cavalry. It would be a week or more before the warriors arrived, the Rangerhood had a chance.