Menar stood with his back against a tree and listened. The forest around him, which should have been filled with the sounds of birds and squirrels, was deathly silent. Something had startled them and Menar would be a fool if he did not find out what it was before it found him!
“More bandits?” he thought. It was certainly possible, he hadn't seen any since he escaped from the pit several hours earlier. He had checked his back trail carefully, and had hidden his tracks where he could. Deep in his gut he felt this dread must be from some other source.
Menar had been traveling the forest road from Thaymite to Fell on an errand from Lord Eastbrook, who had gone into hiding after escaping the siege upon his castle. Menar had taken up with the merchant party to hide his movements, but somehow the bandits had found him anyway. He felt sure now that the black clad bandits were under direction of Earl Tragmore, the King's nephew.
He glanced around trying to find any clue, a movement in the underbrush, a noise, a footprint, anything to indicate what had disturbed the animals. But the forest remained silent, still, and humid. He quietly ducked off the road behind a large tree to see if he could spot whatever it was that was lurking in the forest. He found a large stick he could use as a club and began stalking quietly along the side of the trail.
He heard the crack of a twig away down the left side of the trail in front of him and began dodging from tree to tree in an effort to stay hidden, which was not an easy feat in partial armor. After dodging for the third time, behind a large rock, he came face to face with a troop of five orcs.
They were nearly as startled as he was, but one of them managed to get off a shot before he had time to lift his club. The crossbow bolt slammed hard against his breastplate and knocked the wind out of him. Menar staggered backward against the boulder as the bolt glanced off his breastplate into the brush.
Catching his breath, Menar raised the club and the dull thud of metal against wood filled the air as his makeshift club met the twisted iron swords of the orcs. The crossbowman didn't dare fire a second shot with the rest of the orcs pressing in hard on him. But even without the additional covering fire, Menar had his hands full as he bravely fought the small band.
Menar slammed his club across the head of one orc who slumped to the earth. He quickly grabbed the orc's sword and went to work against the rest of the band. Menar slashed at another orc and left a great gash in both the orc's armor and flesh. Yet another orc growled in anger when he saw his comrade fall and swung at Menar in a blind rage. He slammed his shoulder into Menar, bashing him brutally against the stone. Menar fell to the ground stunned and heaving for breath. The orc raised his sword in triumph and swung it down for a final blow. Menar braced for the impact, but it never came.
An elven arrow sang through the air and caught the orc, turning him on the spot. He crashed to the ground next to Menar and moved no more. The other orcs in the raiding party turned to see where the arrow had come from, but their eyes were not accustomed to the woodland, and two more fell before they could spot their assailant.
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