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THU-SSS-BOOONG!! Went Footman Derrick’s third arrow as it skittered away from the tree he was aiming at and ricocheted off a Merryman’s shoulder guard.
“OI! Watch it ye daft bugger, what are yer, a Markie?! Yer sure shoot like one!” grumbled the Merry as he ambled past the embarrassed Footman.
“Ah, but were it so…” sighed Derrick as he pulled his arrows from the turf and stuffed them back into his pack in resignation. As he bent over to pick up his bow, an arrow whistled over his head, digging a furrow in his hair and splitting an arrow in the tree.
“Coif on footie!” Chuckled a Marksman as he slung his bow back over his shoulder, “And don’t get disheartened. It takes time to master the art of sharpshooting, when I joined the Division I could barely hit a troll at five paces! So, you want to become a Marksman eh lad?” “Yessir, very much so!”
The Marksman looked Derrick up and down with a critical eye and stroked his wispy goatee as if in deep consideration, while Derrick stood rigidly to attention.
“Well, I don’t know, I’d say ye should do okay once ye pass yer Rookie Quest. Perhaps we can even teach ye to shoot that lump o wood straight?” he said grinning
“Davaeorn! Stop toying with the footmen, we have work to do!” Came a stern but cultured voice from behind the young Marksman.
“Yes ma’am, what’s the task?” replied Marksman Davaeorn as his Mistress rode around the footman to face him.
“Watcher Caledor reports Rogues riding up the west road attacking passing merchants. We will go and intervene.”
“Aye ma’am.”
A few minutes later a line of a dozen Marksmen stood before the Citadel with bows slung and swords at their belts. The Mistress rode along the line issuing orders from atop her brown riding horse, Chestnut.
“Alright, pay attention people. The enemy is thought to be small in number, perhaps less than 6, but they are all mounted. Most of the other divisions are out playing with the monsters or some such foolishness as usual, so once again we are left to handle the real threat.”
“Same old tale, send the commoners to keep down the orc numbers, leave the REAL combat to the professionals!” smirked a cocky young marksman with an educated British accent, provoking a ripple of polite laughter. “Of course Saerus. Now, here’s the plan…”
Hartley, the leader of the petty outlaw group that were terrorising the caravans, rode along with a broad grin on his face. The day had been a successful one he thought. Two caravans of wine bound for the abbey winery, and an elderly monk who had been carrying a healthy donation meant for the Church had all fallen prey to he and his five men.
“Ere, Hart, I reckon I can seez another beggar man up there! Reckons we should do ‘im over an all?”
“Aye Stanley. I grow hungry, I think we shall make him our last for today. Heeya, c’maan!”
Digging in his spurs cruelly, Hartley and his men thundered down the road towards the lone man in a heavy brown robe leaning heavily on a yew-wood staff in the middle of the road. When they were but twenty meters from the man he seemed still not to have noticed the bandits’ approach, for he was standing stock still in the middle of the road, supporting himself on his staff. Cantering to a halt a few paces from the man, Hartley called out “Ho there aged one! Your purse or your life!”
The man raised his hand to his ear as if to indicate he hadn’t heard Hartley’s words.
“I said payment or death ye withered old fool!!” Hartley yelled louder, beginning to look a little uncertain at the still apparently unfazed old man standing before him.
The robed man appeared to mull over his choices for a moment, then his head snapped up and his cold blue eyes stared directly into Hartley’s. “Then I choose Death! ATTACK!!” Bellowed the man, casting his robe aside to reveal the golden arms of a Marksman underneath with the badge of First Marksman dangling from a necklace, and put an arrow to the bow that he held as a staff.
A flurry of arrows flew from either side of the road, digging into three of the bandits and sending them flying from the saddle, Hartley narrowly ducking the path of another. “FLEE! BACK DOWN THE ROAD!” Screamed Hartley in blind panic, wheeling his horse about and thrusting his spurs deep into the beast’s flanks. As he turned about, a fresh volley of arrows hit another bandit. Hartley and Stanley hurtled back the way they had come at full gallop. As they rounded the first bend in the road they saw two Marksmen kneeling ready to fire their crossbows. Both loosed their bolts, one taking the hat from Hartley’s head and pinning it to a tree, the other striking Stanley low in the chest just as the First fired an arrow clean through the man’s heart. Slumping in his saddle with a grunt, Stanley’s eyes glazed over and he fell forward, sending his horse bucking and tossing, away into the forest. Realising he had no chance of winning this fight, Hartley tried to run down the two Marksmen blocking his escape and make off down the road to flee, but as he rode by them he saw the wall of crates they had erected just over the crest of the road. Jerking hard at his reigns to stop his horse, Hartley flew from the saddle and crashed into the boxes, sending shards of broken wood into the air. “Ah dammit, it took me ages to knock them together!” cursed Davaeorn, standing up and pointing a loaded crossbow at Hartley, who moaned in pain as he tried to sit up, then fell back into the crates.
The First walked unhurriedly around the corner, straightening his hat, removing his cloak from the pack where he had stored it for safekeeping and putting it back on.
“You. Rogue. You are under arrest for breeching the King’s Law, specifically on a charge of banditry, common assault, theft, and destruction of private property, to whit, 3 crates, which ye broke with yer fat arse. Chain him gents.”
Hartley’s vision swam to black, and the last thing he saw before losing consciousness was a pair of Marksmen advancing cautiously towards him with chains and manacles ready, while an attractive mounted woman tried to calm his panicking horse….(Written by Garret)