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Thread: The Archer

  1. #1

    Default The Archer [OPEN]

    [[OOC: Feel free to join in, if your story may touch this one ... players are always welcome ]]

    They were at it again, the mercenaries slicing through the poorly defended front lines. Raven snorts, 'front lines'. She watches dispassionately as the defenders are pushed to the gate before the Heb Kap garrison barely manages to repulse the mercenary attackers. She had been high on the ramparts and in the scaffolding picking off the unwary in the past days. They were learning her range. Still, more than few had carried away a black fletched arrow. It was irritating that the mercenaries left no bodies behind. She didn't know if any had been kills and her arrows couldn't be recovered. The slim archer slides her hands over her finely crafted bow, a remnant of a former life, the rest of her gear eminently sensible and tightly lashed down. Sensitive fingers check for any flaws, the bowstring would need replacing soon.

    The lines shift and the enemy comes back in to her range. She flits across to a better location, eyes picking out the details. She slides her ivory thumb ring in to place.

    There he was, the Captain on his barded Shemite mount. She stretches, relaxing for a moment and then in one smooth motion draws. If she could take out the head, the body would fall, or at least falter. Mercenary troops weren't known for their intense loyalty. And there was a good chance the second in command would not be quite as canny as the Captain.

    A grunt of frustration escapes as the man swings his charger away and signals to his troop to withdraw. She eases her pull on her bow, slipping the arrow back in her quiver. Damn. A finger count of the remaining arrows tells its own depressing story. Not enough. Not nearly enough. Only two of her own arrows remained, fletched with eagle feathers, the shaft cured in offal and flawlessly straight. It would take time to make new ones. The scavenged arrows would do, but they were a poor substitute. They were made for shock troops firing en mass, not accuracy. She catalogs the supplies and the time it would take to make her own. There were plenty of vultures around to strip of tail feathers, but she would have to venture out into no mans land to recover whatever shafts and arrow heads she could. Decent wood wasn't easily found in the desert.

    The dust rises from the withdrawing troop as it winds toward the Caravanserai. The groans of the wounded and dying drift up to her perch. The healers warily leaving the protection of the walls to administer either a god touched heal or the coup de grace. Too many of the latter. She drops down landing lightly next to a large soldier, punching him in the chest to get his attention. The man looks down and she gestures for him to take her to the Heb Kab Chieftain.

    "You ain't goin' No where" the giant man roars at her, the stench of his breath causing her to take a step back. She glares back at him, her fingers flying as she tries to communicate. She had to get closer to the mercenary camp. After far too much time, the Chieftain finally grunts his assent and waves her away. It takes a while to get past the pickets, but with some wriggling and a great deal of extremely slow and careful crawling, she finds a good spot. There. By the oasis.

    Shock drills her in to place. She knows the woman. That shock of silver hair, the rampant snake tattoo. 'She's dead' the words whisper in her mind. Careful not to move, she inspects them both, catching a slight ripple on the edge of her eyes. They had another watcher. She silently chuckles. Who is watching the watchers. She looks good, I wonder who her master is? Surely, not the Captain. If it were she would have him twirled around her pinky by now. No, he's playing his own game' ... the thoughts tumble one faster than the next as she watches, automatically cataloging the timing of the caravans and the shifts in the wind as the day progresses. 'Perhaps ...' she muses 'perhaps when he leaves here. They are usually very tired after that one gets her way', with that at the top of her thoughts, Raven begins the painstaking process of backing out, taking advantage of the deepening shadows and mindful of the third set of eyes across the water.

    A higher perch, a good view and while at the edge of her range, there were several good withdrawal routes. It will do. She peers back at the Oasis checking on the Captain's location. About 450 bow lengths. A little too far. But ... Raven rocks back on her heels. Then feels for her best arrow. He was walking away. The courtesan left behind, and by her body language, distraught. This man needed to be killed. Any man that could do that to that one was far too dangerous. 'Come closer' she whispers in her mind. 'That's it, just by that tent' ... 'now talk to your man' ... 'just a little further'

    Raven straightens, the compound bow pulled back, arrow perfectly set. He's at the absolute edge of her range, the evening breeze steady. It was worth the shot. She breathes in and releases sending the arrow on its way, then smoothly turns swarming up the escape route, not waiting to see if it hit. Speed, not stealth was important now.

    She would know soon enough. Besides, she needed arrows and there was no moon tonight.
    Last edited by VenaRavenhair; 16th July 2015 at 14:35.

  2. #2

  3. #3


    In the deep desert even a moonless night shines brightly. Galaxies spill across the night sky, eldritch light carving shadows within shadows. Sand shifts, loosened by falling temperatures and wakening heartbeats. Quick flickers hop across the cooling sands, large ears swiveling to catch the whisper of other shadows stalking prey.

    The desert comes alive at night.

  4. #4


    "Will he live, Sir Guy?"

    Sir Guy de Leon understood the unasked question from the second company sergeant, Tepanamun. The razor-faced stygian was really asking, 'Am I to be first company sergeant?'

    Sir Guy cinched the last buckle at the side of his old cuir bouilli cuirass. "For a Stygian, Sergeant Djamose is a tough old crow. An arrow to the ribs will not slow him down for more than a few days. Until then, you can have first company."

    "Many things can happen to a wounded man over the course of a few days," said Tepanamum. "Sudden death, delivered by infected wounds."

    Guy grunted. Stygians, always looking to climb over one another to the top of the pile. And often they climbed with knives in their hands, clawing themselves higher without regard to what backs those knives used for leverage. No different, really, than Guy's native Zingara except the Stygians were open in their threats to climb over you. Guy harbored no doubt Tapanamun had aspirations to climb over him and command this haphazzardly thrown together troop of mercenaries.

    Guy pulled from his scabbard belts the fletching of a broken arrow, the arrow that had managed to bite into Dlamose's ribs, and tossed it on the small table between he and Tepanamun. "First Company will lead the afternoon assault," he said pulling on his heavy leather gauntlets. "Make ready your men, First Sergeant."

    A light wind ruffled the walls of the campaign tent, causing the old hides with their hastily drawn maps to shudder. Tepanamun picked up the broken fletching. The same signature fletching had been pulled out of many men. The archer, whoever it was, had a nasty habit of targeting anyone who appeared to be giving orders in the midst of battle. Tepanamun threw the broken fletching aside, snorted and left the tent.

    Guy looked to the maps, scrawled with khol on tanned hides. The rebel slaves held a fine position; His military mind admired it, even if it was an accident of circumstance, the mining compound they defended being high up on a hill. Their walls were crap, just dried mud bricks, and easily breeched. But the slaves held the higher ground and a morass of sand spread from the base of the hill, conspiring against the speed and maneuverability Sir Guy often depended on. Good thing these rebels were just slaves, untrained, disorganized. A quarter their number of real fighting men in that defensive position would be a challenge to the mercenaries Guy had managed to gather in order to snuff out this rebellion. As it stood, the slaves made up for their lack of skill with numbers. But it became tiring to slaughter so many and to make so little progress.

    Small squares on the maps marked where men had fallen to the custom fletched arrows with their sanded smooth shafts. Guy started making the marks once it became apparent there were more than just rebel slaves trying to defend the mines Slowly, the archer's range was found and patterns of arcs emerged, indicating the likely vantage points favored by the archer.

    And this afternoon, right up through those onion-like rings of black squares Guy would order the first company, led by Tepanamun.

  5. #5


    The archer wakens in the cool predawn air, stretching to remove the last bits of sleep stiffness. The night's haul of spent shafts lies in the small pile where she dropped it. For the moment she ignores it, skinning a date with her even white teeth, chewing thoughtfully with small sips of water. She pops the remainder of the date in her mouth, sucking on the meat to make it last. It would have to.

    This wasn't going well. The numbers of slaves was not going to overcome the systematic butchery brought on by the mercenary troop. Yes, the slaves had managed a few small victories over Captain Nut and his outpost, but this was different. She grunts. That damned Merc Captain, it was a shame her arrow missed. Now the b@stard had brought in new men. She liked that name, and it capitalizes in her thoughts: "Sir B@stard". He seemed to have the uncanny ability to replace his sergeants and squad leaders as fast as she identified and took them down. He was clearly willing to spend their lives. It was a losing fight.

    Raven chuffs in disgust as she inventories her supplies. She had already started moving the pink salt that marked her pay. It was a slow process. Two, maybe three days and she could withdraw, her contract fulfilled. Her effectiveness was already waning. She was certain given the shifting movements of each attack that they now had most of her perches narrowed down. She gazes at the scavenged arrows. Each harvest yielded fewer. Even her range markers were disappearing. Damn that man. Who thought of such things!?

    A sigh escapes as she sits and begins sorting the arrows. Those not rejected are carefully sanded, stained, refletched and new heads carefully chosen and set. Each refurbished arrow carefully placed to cure on a rock shelf, cradled in sand. Fingers explore the ones from the previous day and she gathers those deemed ready, filling her quiver. There are not enough to fill her spares and she leaves both quivers on the ledge. It was a losing fight.

    Shaking her head, the archer looks up at the sun now high in the sky. She carefully tucks the date pit into her cheek then drains the remaining water from her skin. It would be a hot one.

    Raven stands, working out the kinks and gets ready. She strips her armor, scrubbing everything clean of sweat and rubbing in the clean neutral scent of sand. First the armor, then her small, spare body scrubbed until every trace of grime is removed. No smell would give her location away. She binds her breasts, winding the linen down her torso, padding her tiny waist until her body was shaped more like a boy than a woman. No one in the slave camp had realized and she meant to keep it that way. Dodging the sodomites was hard enough. Each piece of leather and cloth layers on, protection against the elements as well as sharp eyes. Next the knives, tucked and hidden in her bracers, belt, boots, thighs, behind her neck. Each secured by touch, snug in its place. She absently works a silken garrote into the neckline of her tunic, another gets wound into her hair as it is tucked tightly into her hood.

    Another grunt as she finally picks up her bow, turning the inverted ebony circle into a recognizable bow with the newly woven string. She strokes it, gathering comfort and strength from its familiarity, thumb ring rubbing against the compounded wood and ivory. Finally a mask is dropped over her face hiding all but her eyes.

    The lithe archer climbs down the rock-face glancing back only once to make sure nothing would give away her tiny camp. It was time to get in to position. The new mercenaries would have been integrated in to their squads and the serious attacks would begin shortly. Sir B would most likely send them right in to the middle to blood the new mix, and she would happily oblige, starting with whoever gave the orders.
    Last edited by VenaRavenhair; 11th July 2015 at 17:48.

  6. #6


    Guy lifted his hand and motioned toward Hep-Kab. A horn sounded, banners dipped toward the mine and blocks of men in formation marched forward. Four blocks, each with twenty-five men, arranged in a diamond pattern stomped through the sand toward the mine. First company marched at the head of the diamond, flanked left and right by companies of archers and at the base of the diamond, a block of lighter, skirmishing troops. Three more blocks of infantry remained behind as reserves, arranged in a line before the low hill from which Sir Guy observed the attack. The company of cavalry, usually positioned on the right flank, had not been committed to the battle order for the afternoon.

    A few black lines arched through the air from the walls, falling short of first company. “Finding their range,” said Guy of the slave archers. “Idiots, they should already know it.”

    “Signal for a volley?” asked one of the standard bears on the hill with Guy.

    “No. Signal archers and skirmishers to halt. First company forward.”

    “Sir, First Company will be without archer cover.”

    “I know. Let the slaves waste their arrows.”

    From the low hill where Guy observed the attack, horns sounded and banners waved. At the marching diamond of men, archers and skirmishers halted and First Company surged forward, up the rocky slope toward the mine.

    Shields raised, First Company hurled themselves through increasing arrow fire. At the wall they closed ranks. Grapples arched up to the walls, claws grabbing at the mud brick parapets. Slaves rushed to hack the ropes but the mercenaries did not climb. The tight group of men backed away from the wall, pulling down crumbling crenelations which fell in showers of brick and dust to the base of the wall. Two, three more times first company tore at the defenses, exposing the parapet walls.

    With all but one of their grapple ropes hacked through and their sergeant, Tepanamun, dead at the walls with an arrow through his neck, the mercenaries ran back down the hill. Slave archers, eager for blood, hurried onto the walls to chase the mercenaries with biting arrows.

    “Sweep the parapets,” said Guy. “Two volleys.”

    Horns sounded. Banners waved. The two blocks of mercenary bowmen rushed forward, lifted their bows and in unison poured arrows onto the exposed archers along the wall. Two quick volleys and the blocks of mercenary bowmen retreated beyond arrow range, leaving more mercenary arrows in slaves than the slaves left arrows in mercenaries.

    And so the afternoon went with assaults meant to tear down defenses rather than defenders. Destroy, retreat, sweep, repeated until the light began to fade and across the desert a rider came rushing through the clouds of dust.

    The scout reined his horse near Guy. Both scout and horse huffed, slathered in sweat and dust, near exhausted. “Sir Guy, We have found a pass. It is steep but can be traversed. It leads down behind the mines to the river where the slaves are selling the salt to pirates for weapons. There are only a half dozen lightly armed slaves watching the pass.”

    Guy grunted. Finally, a way behind the rebel slaves that did not require being exposed on the river. “Signal the withdrawal,” he said to the horn and standard bearers. Horns Sounded. Banners waved. Blocks of men pulled back to Caravanserai. With luck it would be the last withdrawal.

  7. #7


    The B@stard had changed his tactics. She'd expected a shakeout of his new troops, but the push to destroy the walls and at the cost of the one company was brutal. She made sure every arrow counted. Let the others volley in to the sky hoping for one to land, but each of hers had found flesh. For what good it did. She'd tried to warn the slave archers to not be over eager, but her gestures had gone unnoticed or ignored. The cost of that moment of weakness was an arrow through her calf.

    There was nothing more she could do, and judging by the state of the walls Hep-Kab would fall in the next attack if the Captain spent his men against the walls again. Yes, the cost would be high, the slaves would take their share of flesh with them, but Hep-Kab would fall.

    It had taken all evening to make it back to her camp. She hadn't dared remove the arrow, just cut off either side, stabilizing it. Finally, she drags herself over the edge, collapsing in to the hollow that made up her camp. She spits out the date pit, and eats another date. This one not bothering to save. She would need the energy. Finally, everything was in place, her bow and last arrow of worth within easy reach there was no more delaying it. The arrow had to come out.

    Raven leans against the back, bracing herself, pouring alcohol on to the wound before yanking the shaft out. The world goes black.

  8. #8


    A lame horse hobbles along the rock strewn path to Hep-Kab, dragging behind it a dead man, his foot tangled in a stirrup. Two rebel slaves watching the path rush out to the horse. One inspects the horse, the other searches the dead man for any valuables.

    “Horse is too lame for anything except meat,” says the first, taller slave.

    The second slave rifles the dead man's pockets and grin when he finds a small purse of coins and several strips of jerky. “Our friend won’t be needing these and no one needs to know he ever had them.”

    The taller slave pats the horse on the neck and nods towards the body. “What’s that, there in his shirt?”

    The second slave pulls a crumpled, blood stained message from the dead man’s shirt. “I don’t know I can’t read. Let’s take it to Tetak-Annon. He can read it.”

    News spreads through Hep-Kab of the message found on the dead messenger:


    Made this day <the date is smudged by a blood stain but appears to be two days prior>

    Be it known the slave called Pax, having been found guilty of treason and collaboration with the rebels of Hep-Kab is to be impaled five days hence. Any wishing to make entreaties of succor may do so to Knight Commander Guy de Leon, Caravanserai

    Hereby signed and commited this day by Hepmet Sekamun.

    Glory to Set!
    May we, though His strength and eternal gaze, forever burn our enemies!

  9. #9


    The last caravan dragged its way to the edge of Caravanserai after dusk, meandering in from the east road where few dared to venture these days and even fewer returned. Four burdened camels, all in a line, led by a solitary figure at their helm: a merchant from the far east, from Khitai. A wide-brimmed hat shielded him from the harsh weather of the desert, while the tattered cloak that covered him told of the long journey behind him. And yet it was not over. The merchant paused, stroking a short black beard, flawlessly kept and drawn to an immaculate point, as he scanned the banners and tents that had descended upon Caravanserai. He was certain there had been a humble town of trade somewhere around here at some point. It was late in the day, or he would have made straight for the river and had his goods loaded onto the deck of a ship before resting. As he pondered where to go, a sinister sound caught his ear. He could not see them in the dim light of early evening, but he could hear the tightening of bowstrings, and knew that he was being watched.

    "Halt! Who goes there?"

    The merchant sighed and called back.

    "I am but a humble merchant returning from Khitai, bringing a few goods of meager worth here to offer to the people of glorious Stygia."

    The voice from the walls delayed for several moments, entertaining a windy silence, before voicing their demand.

    "It is twenty silver to enter this fort!"

    Inwardly the merchant cursed. There were mercenaries at the walls, then. No point in keeping up the humble act.

    "Who's in charge of this town?"

    There was a quiet rush of voices, calling over each other, before the answer could be discerned and given.

    "For now, it is none other than Knight Commander Guy de Leon!"

    Hmph. For now. Definitely mercenaries. He wondered what it was this time? A squabble among lesser lords? A slave rebellion? An attack by strange warrior women?

    "Tell your leader that I, Jiahuo of Paikang, am at his doorstep, with a special wartime discount on my goods!"

    There was another murmur, and the calls rang out from more than one person.

    "What do you have to offer?"

    "Any weapons, armor, arrows?"

    "What about food? Other supplies?"

    Jiahuo sighed. He should have listened to his deputy about getting into the weapons trade.

    "None of the above!"

    There was a brief silence, blasted apart by the next answer.

    "Pah! What good are you? Forty silver to enter Caravanserai, merchant!"

    Jiahuo growled, his hand straying to the hit of the sword slung behind his back, recently cleaned.

    "I offer fine wines, course wines, rice wines, and Shaulun tea leaves! I offer powdered obsidian from Kara Korum and heavy oils from Turan! I offer herbs and ointments from sacred monasteries that can cure wounds that befuddle high priests! I offer snake charms from Pteion that have been blessed with protective rites of Set! I offer lotuses, maddening gray, lustful pink, paralyzing purple, in both petal form and concentrate for use in coating blades and arrows with poison! I offer-"

    There was a collective murmur of approval from within.

    "Alright, alright, you can sell your goods here, no need to pay the fee. Come in!"

    He soon had his caravan marching down the crowded paths of Caravanserai, peering about him at the symptoms of the mercenary affliction that descended upon too many towns near the battlefront. Drawing from memory, he managed to find the place to squeeze his goods off the backs of his camels and into a tiny storage place alongside the goods of many other merchants that had not yet fled the staging area for war. Satisfied that his goods were safe from any greedy mercenaries with loose hands, he proceeded to make his way among the tents with careful steps from sandaled feet, pausing before one with guards outside and accented voices spewing from within. The guards guarding the tent flap glowered at him.

    "What business do you have here?"

    Jiahuo smirked, pulling out a dusty bottle from within the depths of his robes.

    "Might I interest the Knight Commander in some Zingaran Red? I keep a bottle or three around for personal use. Reasonably priced, I assure you."

  10. #10

    Default Pax - inside the command tent

    From inside the tent and occasional chink of chain can be heard, the sounds come together into a slow rhythm, as if instead of drums, there chains were setting the pace of a sinuous dance.

    The evening breezes begin to sweep in, hinting at a cool night. The sun at least would take its rest.
    Last edited by VenaRavenhair; 13th July 2015 at 22:44.

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