The Hunt

*This is one of my older writing pieces. Although I notice the repetition and errors, I prefer to move onto new works as opposed to editing older ones. It helps me gauge how far I’ve come every time I write a new piece.

Ian Whitecrest narrowed his eyes, a bead of sweat forming on his forehead. Brom Reinford sat next to him in the bushes within the sparsely populated oak forest that sat below the large, black-brick fortress of the Carterian Keep. Woodsmoke from the nearby city, Carteria could be smelled from their position. Wet grass dampened the heavy woolen pants that both of them had donned for the hunting expedition. Brom cursed under his breath as one of the unseen briars within the bushes caught his blandly dyed wool tunic. Ian glanced sharply at him.

“Shut up,” he said under his breath, just as loudly as Brom’s cursing. He bit his lip quickly glaring at Brom. The deer that they had been stalking had stopped in a slight clearing, grazing on the tall grass that had grown in along with other bushes, much like the one they were in. At the sound of the mutters, it raised its head, wide eyes looking around the clearing, searching for what may have caused the foreign noise. Ian’s grip on his small hunting bow tightened, an arrow held to the string but not yet drawn back. When the deer saw no obvious threats to its peaceful grazing, it lowered its head again and continued to munch at the grass. Ian slowly stood, the muscles in his legs tight from sitting in the cold bush all day. He pulled his bow to full draw. His aim shook slightly at the exertion of holding a bow at full draw, and he took aim of the deer. He closed one of his eyes, his tongue protruding from his mouth in concentration. He fired.

The deer heard the sound and looked up, startled. The arrow flashed by where its head was just mere seconds ago and there was a throaty thud as it hit one of the old oaks and stuck. The deer turned quickly and bounded deeper into the woods. Brom drew his own bow, making the effort look easy due to his years of practicing with a heavy sword even before they joined the Carterian Guard.

“Let me show you how it’s done,” he said, aiming and releasing his arrow at the deer that was rapidly escaping. The arrow flew true, and promptly missed the deer by almost three meters. Ian gave an exaggerated nod.

“You’re right,” he said solemnly. “I should have done that. Would’ve gotten me much better results.” Brom glared at his friend and was very well conscious of the fact that he was trying to stop a smile from forming on his face.

“He was running! That made aiming harder!” He protested as Ian walked to collect his arrow. Brom’s, of course, was nowhere to be seen in the overgrowth of the forest.

“Well,” Ian said. “I suppose we should start heading back towards Carteria.” He looked up at the sky, trying to gauge the time of day before speaking again. “Commander Gall’s going to skin us alive if we’re not back in our uniforms by mealtime. We’d better get going!” He said as he began to walk towards the smell of woodsmoke. Brom followed, speaking.

“Maybe we’d be better off staying in the woods the rest of our lives,” he said in a joking tone, highlighting the strict demeanor of the guard commander known to his troops as Commander Gall. Ian gave a short bark of laughter.

“You just know he’d hunt us down if we missed his deadline, wherever we are,” he said, maintaining the same joking tone.

The woodsmoke could be sensed much more easily now. They had reached one of the many small paths that led up the side of the valley that was closest to the large trading port of Carteria. They walked up the small path, known only to those who live– or lived in the forest. Both Ian and Brom were in the latter category. They walked up the side of the valley, slipping occasionally in the slowly drying mud of the rainfall that they had been forced to sit through earlier in the day.

Eventually, Ian and Brom reached a small overlook that sits on the edge of the heavily used training ground in the back of the Carterian Keep. Sandpits used in mock fights were nothing but muddy holes, and both Ian and Brom skirted around them. The Keep towered above them as they moved towards one of the back entrances. Two guards, looking miserable as ever, were stationed outside of the door. They too had to sit through the rain that was endured by Ian and Brom. Although the sun was slowly revealing itself, both the guards still looked drenched. The two men stationed at the entrance heard the footfall of the two men, and their eyes focused on Ian and Brom.

“Halt,” one of them called, his spear pointed in the general direction of the two newly returned hunters. Ian raised a hand in greeting.

“C’mon, Bill. You know who we are,” he said to the guard, and he instantly came to attention with a salute. “Sir… Sirs?” He said, looking between Ian and Brom with a slightly questioning tone. Ian laughed.

“Even I’m not sure which way is proper,” he said with a carefree shrug, and the guard smiled slightly.

“Here you go, Sir,” he said, rapping on the door. He turned to the Keep, calling up to a small guardhouse. “Open it up!” He shouted, and a few seconds later, the heavy metal portcullis groaned as it was retracted up into the keep. Ian and Brom both walked forward.

“Thank you, Guardsmen,” Brom said in his usual authoritative tone as they both walked inside of the Keep. One of the more senior guards waved in acknowledgment. As they walked down the black-brick hallway, the torches on the wall burning warmly and brightly. Brom spoke.

“Ian? You think we’re back on time?” He asked, and Ian promptly turned to him with a grin.

“Not even close,” he said.

 

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