This is a rather lengthy story for a blog. This is the third of eleven parts. I never intended on adding onto it or making into something more. Perhaps your enthusiasm will change my mind.
The second morning of our adventure began without harm and with little fear. Birds zipped through the tree tops, whispering and calling out to one another. The calming songs did not eradicate our uneasiness, or erase the tension that was wrapped tightly in our bones. Their melodies did however hush the silent, brooding fear that lie beneath our skin. With this minor assistance, and the stirring words of Oliver, we ate quickly and began our march.
Every step brought us closer to the goal of combat, something that we had been taught from an early age was our purpose in life. We were born to fight for our city and protect it no matter the cost, and no matter the loss of life. Our city and our fellow citizens are more important than our individual lives. Sure, we all have inherent value, according to our leaders. However, there is greater value stored in the city itself, and the people that make up the city.
We stroll through the dense woods in a long thin line. We stay spaced apart, so an attack will not smite all of us. Oliver is at the front of line, picking our path and reading one of the few maps we have of the area. He alone carries a map, and he alone knows how to read it. He glances down at the paper every so often as we push into the center of the woods.
A few yards behind him trots our bowman, Napoleon. He is equally as frightening as Oliver. His appearance is nothing spectacular, nor is he a tremendous hulking man. Rather, his talent with a bow and arrow are more than enough to stab fear deep into the heart of anyone capable of thought. He never misses his mark, as his arrows are rumored to fly straighter than the average archer’s. On his back, he carries a massive quiver, bursting with razor sharp arrows. On his hip, he carries a dagger. If the stories are true, his dagger is pure silver. I have heard, this metal is the purest of all. Silver is said to be the only way to stop evil, as silver is a divine metal.
I am next. I am the scribe for this journey. I am to record what happens on the Hunt, and participate as needed. I carry a short sword, as I wrote before, but I was hardly trained. I know only a few basic moves and blocks. Other than that, I am near useless in a fight. I was raised in a culture that expects everyone to fight the evil that lurks outside of the city, yet when I am selected to battle these monsters, I am just the person that writes down what happens. I pen the exciting parts of the trip, while the rest of the team fights monsters and battles demons. This is still a dream come true, as I get to see a little of the world, capture it in my journal and record my team’s struggle against the ferocious beasts of the forest.
Gregory is walking behind me, he is the youngest and most inexperienced member of the group. He is a frail looking boy, barely able to hold his sword. He staggers a bit as he walks, and his eyes bounce around from tree to tree. I cannot tell if he is too excited and eager to fight the fabled monsters in the woods, or if he is entirely captivated by fear. Sometimes, after a soldier undergoes boot camp, and still shows signs of inability they are sent on a Hunt. This boy hardly passed boot camp. If nothing else, his tiny frame works against him. He is not fit to be a soldier. Yet, this is his duty, since he was selected to be a soldier of the city’s army.
With a sword on his waist, and a cruel smile on his face Benedict is covering the rear of our line. As a grunt in the city’s army he tracked and fought these beasts for years. Understandably, a foot soldier turned hunter is not a rare sight. In fact, it is common, especially after the solider is too old to serve the city. Once any soldier reaches a certain age they are let go, and forced back into the civilian population. This is an unfortunate event, but it is a rule our leaders have agreed is just. Older soldiers are too focused on preserving their own lives and returning to their family. This flaw leads to death on the battlefield, I am told.
Half of our team is caked with deadly flaws, and half is studded with experience. What a bizarre combination to send into the field. A Hunt is the most important mission a member of our city can undertake. Why our leaders chose these individuals, I do not know, nor will I ever discover an answer that is remotely soaked in truth. It is not my place to know such things, nor is it my place to question the decisions of the leadership.
Night comes quickly in these woods. The trees, and the canopy, create an artificial nighttime, long before the sun actually sets. This cuts down on the time we have to search for the beasts, as we will not wonder in the woods once the sun disappears. The beasts are proficient hunters all of the time, but especially so after dark.
As we made camp, Gregory spoke up to question Oliver about our weapons.
“Why are we not carrying rifles?” Gregory began. “It would make this so much easier.”
“The leadership doesn’t want to waste precious resources on our mission,” Oliver answered, his lips moving in a robotic fashion.
“But this is the most important mission,” Gregory stated. “This is the most important mission of all. It is a tradition of our people!”
“Not true,” Oliver answered, shaking his head. “It may be a rich tradition, but rebuilding the world is the most important mission, and to do this, we will need soldiers and guns. They are saving them, and making as many bullets as possible for the campaign.”
“Campaign?” I ask, interrupting their conversation.
“Scribe, why are you speaking to us?” Oliver asks from across the fire. The light danced on his face, hiding many of the smooth features with their dark charm. “You have no purpose speaking now. You are not needed.”
“I am sorry,” I apologize, bowing my head in embarrassment. “Continue.”
“There will be a military campaign soon, after we purge the beasts from this world,” Oliver explained. “That is all I can say.”
“They are finally going to rebuild the world, after all these years,” Benedict laughs. “I heard that promise when I was a boy.”
“I have seen their plans, and their storerooms. They have countless bullets stored in the bunkers,” Oliver said to the group. “This is not just another story. This is fact.”
“And we have to kill all of these beasts so the workers can clear the trees?” Gregory asked.
“Yeah,” Oliver said flatly. “And so the settlers can be safe, without walls.”
“Then let us smite these beasts quickly so we can help cut back these trees, and rebuild this world,” Napoleon cheered.
“My friend, that is the idea,” Oliver said with a smile.
Continue to part four here
Go back to part two here