When to Take is to GIve

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
To save a village from a terrible curse, a Ranger must journey up a mountain in search of an egg from a mighty bird.

Submitted: August 29, 2008

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Submitted: August 29, 2008

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WHEN TO TAKE IS TO GIVE

Journal Entry

I have decided to write a journal in the hopes of staving off the loneliness of my profession. I will not say that I chose to become a ranger, but rather that fate dealt me a hand different to the one my family would have chosen for me.

It is cold out here in the wild lands and rarely do I have the opportunity to light a fire and enjoy a warm meal nor to share gentle talk with another soul. The mountains are too dangerous to dare attract attention through sight or smell. Where I sit now I can see across the tundra to the cliffs which fall forever. The mountains here are like the old zigurats that the Jungle Lizards make in honour of their Gods. They grow from the rock in tiered levels of suitable size to build a small village on. There are few human-made tracks which lead this far up. It is dangerous in these parts as trolls infest the mountains attacking anything that moves. What do they eat up here? There does not appear to be anything larger than a scrawny hare with which to satisfy their hunger. Already I have been attacked several times, when exhaustion had made me careless. Only my training saved me from becoming another item in their cooking pot. I heard my old mentor's voice in my head, “When high in the mountains keep the wind to your exposed side. If danger comes and you need to jump, the wind will push you up and against the cliff. It'll slow your descent long enough for you to stop your fall.” He neglected to mention how much it hurt to grab a ledge that is speeding past you. Still, I walked away alive, if a little bruised. He knew the wilds like no other that I have encountered on my long travels. I miss his company even after all these years.

The sun has finally emerged from behind the peaks and it is a blessing from Pelor that warms me to my spirit.

Journal Entry

I am risking a fire tonight as the weather has turned fierce and cold. I am praying that it passes quickly as the longer I wait the more people will succumb to the disease. That is the only reason I would travel this high in the mountains. Five days ago I came across a village at the base of the mountain which is in dire straights. The village had refused to open the gates to a ragged man who asked for lodgings. They did not trust his appearance as he looked like a northerner from the wastelands or worse, a djinn. The man had turned walked back down the path and the villagers thought no more about him. Three days later one of the farmer's children went missing, a little girl. They searched everywhere for her and eventually a youth found her. She was lying on the ground unconscious and very pale. Stooping over her was the man from the north, whispering into her sleeping ear. The youth had been frightened half to death by the sight of him. When I asked the youth what had happened he said the the northerner had bared his teeth at him and shouted that the village would regret it's lack of hospitality, that the mountains would soon claim the villagers for its own. That night when the girl had been brought back, the curse that the man had called down, hit the village. At first it was just the elderly and the sick, but then it spread to those who were healthy and strong. Their skin began to harden and become stone. When I had arrived, already there were statues being placed in graves. The mountain was claiming the people just as he had said. There was not another village for many days travel and no cleric or healer that could ward off this horrible curse. I knew of only one thing which might heal these people and break the curse. My old mentor had told me once of a bird which dwelt in the highest reaches of the mountains whose eggs had great healing properties especially in regards to curses. Only the largest of birds can live so high up, with 8oft wingspans and strength enough to lift a horse and carry it off; the Roc is one of the largest birds in the world.

So here am I high in the mountains searching for a nest in the most inaccessible place on Earth, cold and alone. I am a ranger and this is my calling.

Journal Entry

The weather has passed and I have been moving steadily upwards. The trolls have been left far behind, now only stone giants and the Rocs are anything to fear. There are no more tracks of any kind and I am finding my own way to go. A strange thing though happened as the sun set last night. I was climbing up onto a ledge to make camp when my hand touched something sharp that cut my finger deeply. When I pulled out the object I saw that it was the broken hilt of a sword. The blade had been sheared off leaving only an inch left. I wondered at how a sword could have made its way up this high as I had thought that I was probably the first person to have ever climbed this mountain. How naïve I am. When I made camp and had eaten what little food I allowed myself. I brought out the hilt and brushed off the caked mud. There was a heraldic shield design pressed into the pommel. It was old, but i recognised it instantly by the distinct marking of the bear paw with two arrows crossing behind. It was my mentors marking. Had he traveled up here all those years ago? Had he once stolen an egg from the mighty Rocs? My heart beat faster. The broken sword was the first sign of his movements since he had disappeared ten years ago.

I realise that I have not spoken clearly of my past. If I can find a sheltered place to light a fire tomorrow, then I will do my best to impart my history.

Journal Entry

I have reached the clouds and feel totally blind. It is so isolating to stand here and not be able to see more than a few feet in front of me. Of course it is not the true clouds, but rather the mist which clings to the peaks. I have brought firewood from below as there is nothing to burn this high up. I spotted one of the great birds today. How truly beautiful they are soaring through the sky. I must keep reminding myself that they are fierce birds who do not permit trespassers in their mountains.

I feel safe here, surrounded by mist and not a single human for miles around. There is loneliness though and isolation. I am comforted by this journal which has been my companion and I am embarrassed to say, my friend. It is a long time since I have been in one place long enough to maintain friends. Not since my childhood. I promised to write my history tonight and I shall keep my word.

I was born in the fair city of Garendor to noble parents of House Carvel. My Father was an influential man and was charged with the maintenance of the city. A young child is a burden to one so important and I was raised by my Mother in a manor some miles from Garendor. My life was a pleasant one, but filled with the presence of tutors who groomed me in matters of state to eventually take up my father's position when he passed it on to me. My Father did not brook much familiarity and yet I have no memory of not being loved. The free time that I had was spent sword fighting with the young squires or stealing mead from the manor cellar. It was a happy life. That was until The Horde came.

I will never forget my first contact with The Horde. I was in the forests hunting deer with a hand-made bow and arrow. Even then I was quite good with the bow and had a sharp eye that could hit rabbit on the run, but what I really wanted was to bring down a deer, or better yet a stag. The forest was dark with mottled light and smelt of rotting wood and something worse. I had been trying to follow a pair of deer tracks, but I lost them at a stream. There were no paths in this part of the wood and I was a few mile from home. I stopped to drink some cool water and wash the sweat off my face when I saw a flash of movement dark and moving quickly. My first thought was that I had found the deer and I surged forward to get a clear shot. I burst through the undergrowth kicking leaves out behind me, I ran into an old dry riverbed and was climbing the bank when I saw something in the trees ahead. I stopped just short of the top of the bank and looked up. Hanging from ropes in the trees were bodies, hundreds of them. Their faces purple with blood, tongue thick, mouths open. The wind knocked the bodies together like silent wind chimes. I don't know why, but I found myself walking down to stand underneath them. It was as if the movement of their bodies had mesmerised me. I could put names to a dozen or so of those that swung above. There had been of late many strange disappearances from the villages around the city and it looked as if I had found them. It was then that I felt it. A stirring of something sinister. Looking around I noticed that the bodies were hanging in the centre of a large stone circle. Dark blood coated the rocks so that they looked more like chunks of black coal. The wind picked up, fierce and loud as I felt the energy that had built up suddenly release. There was a twitching movement from overhead and when I glanced up I saw that the bodies which I had thought were dead, had come back to the land of the quick. I could not look away nor could I run, the horror that I was witnessing gripped me like a cold vice. I watched as the heads lolled around and the eyes roll back from whites until I saw their pupils black and hard. They watched me from their height regarding me with alien eyes.

I felt a soft leather glove wrap around my arm and a voice whisper in my ear, “Do not make a sound or move suddenly. They will not attack if you remain passive. I am not here to harm you”. I turned my head slowly towards the voice. There was a large man behind me garbed in brown leather and with a faded travelers cloak of a colour lost in the past. He had green eyes and a bushy blonde beard. Gently he pulled me away from the bodies and back up over the riverbank until they were out of sight.

He let go of my arm and I turned to him to thank him. He shook his head and put his finger to his lips to silence me. Then he pointed back over the bank. We crawled back up the bank and peeked over the edge. One by one the corpses grabbed the ropes above their heads and ripped them down. They fell to the ground and slowly stood, silent and unmoving. My rescuer gestured towards the forest on the other side of the standing bodies and slowly as I watched more corpses emerged from the woods. They gathered together and it looked to me as if they were waiting for something.
I felt it before I saw it. I figure emerged from the darkness of the forest, it's clothing black from blood, it's face darker still and dried like leather. Little remained of it eyes, just empty whithered husks which had long since lost their structure. Fear coursed through my blood, fear like I had never experienced before. I wanted to run, I wanted to hide forever so that I would never have to look on that thing again. My companion held my arm and I took courage from his strength. He did not look afraid, his eyes held a sadness which I didn't understand. Even as I watched him I saw a tear fall to the ground. He closed his eyes for a long moment and when they opened I observed that he had once more regained control of himself. The creature stalked through the mass of bodies as if it could see even without its eyes. Silently it lurched off into the woods.

It is safe for the moment. The evil has moved on.”

Where does it go to” I asked him.

Again his eye were touched with sadness. “To Garendor” he said quietly. “To fetch a crown.”

My Father is in Garendor, shouldn't we warn him?”

It's too late for him now.”

What about my Mother.”

He closed his eyes. “It's too late for her too.”

I lost my way of life that day and gained a new one.

His name was Corran and he was a Ranger.

Journal Entry

I have found a nest at last! It is in a tricky to reach place on a spike of brown rock which justs from mountainside. I cannot write anymore as the light is failing. I will try for the egg tomorrow.

Journal Entry

I have never traveled so far or so quickly in my life! Were I to have strapped myself to an arrow I would not have moved quicker. I am writing this from the village at the feet of the mountain where I started my journey, only a day ago I was on its peaks.

I reached the nest just as the sun touched the centre of the sky. The nest was made of woven river reeds which my training told me only grew some twenty days journey from here by fast horse. How quickly these lordly birds move! I managed to get within a few feet of the bottom of the nest. I prayed that there was an egg inside or all my effort these last two days would be for nothing. I quickly glanced around to see if the Mother was near, but saw no sign of her. Using the reeds like a ladder, I climbed up the side of the nest and with a great effort I pulled myself up over the rim. I knew that I had to move quickly as I could not afford to tarry long in such a dangerous and exposed position. Looking down I saw that there was indeed a large egg with silver streams of colour running like marble over the hard white shell.

Welcome.” Said a voice from behind me.

I jumped and turned to see not one but two of the giant Rocs perched some thirty feet away. I was struck again by their magnificent plumage of golds and browns.

We have been watching you for some time now as you struggled up our mountain.” I knew that birds were using their magic to speak, for I am sure that I would have been blown from the mountain had they let out the smallest cry from their mighty mouths.

Do not fear little human, though you have come like a thief to steal our egg, it is possible that we do not wish you harm. We see that you have toiled long to be here and that your purpose was not for your own glory, but we are curious. Why are you here?”

I had no choice, but to speak the truth. I knew the ways of the wild, that it was their right to kill me for what I was doing.

There is a village at the feet of the mountain which has been placed under a curse. There is a legend that says that your eggs contain the power to heal and even to break a curse. I volunteered to find your egg and bring it back to the village. I know that by the laws of the wild you should kill me where I stand and I accept my fate”.

I felt like the silence that stretched between us went on forever. I tried to stay calm, but my heart would not slow. I did not want to die, but the law must be followed.

You have risked your life to save the lives of others, yet you would bring about the death of our own to do this. We have decided that you shall have our egg to lift the curse, For there is an older law that governs this undertaking, but we will not go against the law of the wild, nor would we wish to. Your life is now ours as forfeit. Some day, we will come and claim what is ours by right”.

I could not believe it. I would live? The Rocs lifted up from their perch one took me in its powerful talons while the other took their egg. We spiraled down and down through icy cold from the head to the foot of the mountains. They left me there outside the gates stiff with cold and fear from my flight, the egg clutched in my arms.

Journal Entry

I leave that mountain forever changed. I have recovered under the care of a thankful village. With a full stomach and my feet already restless for the road, I journey on.

My life is forfeit, yet I cannot help but feel free. Strange that the taking of my life has caused me to realise that for those who are Rangers, our lives have never been our own for the choosing, for they have always been forfeit to the call of the Wild.


© Copyright 2019 Jonas Wright. All rights reserved.

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