In Search of the Lost

Rynn sat alone in the corner of a plaza, quietly whittling away at a small block of wood with one of his orcish daggers. The bird figure being carved was extremely crude — Rynn wasn't much of an artist and his tool was not ideal.

But the ranger didn't care. He was just passing time as he enjoyed the warm morning outdoors. With casual interest, he watched the hustle and bustle of the townspeople going about their business. It had been two weeks since he and his mentor had arrived at the city of Twilight, yet Rynn still felt out of place. Just being in the city felt surreal; it brought back old memories of Camden. Memories of a former life.

A slight sense of guilt lurked in the back of Rynn's mind. He couldn't enjoy the comforts of civilization knowing that Juliet was lost somewhere in the dead lands. If she was even still alive. It had taken quite a bit of persuasion on Arandur's part to get Rynn to abandon his search and come here.

Shaking his head, Rynn drove those thoughts from his mind. He hoped that his mentor would be able to find them another job soon; waiting around idly gave Rynn too much time to dwell on such things. The odd jobs they had taken so far — like delivering packages, chopping wood, and loading wagons — didn't make much use of their ranger skills, but they did keep the duo busy. Arandur had promised that he'd find them something better soon. If he earned enough money, Rynn intended to spend his gold coins to purchase a longsword.

"Sitting by yourself again?"

Rynn looked up from his whittling to see His mentor standing over him.

"It wouldn't hurt you to talk to someone, you know. You make me worry sometimes."

"I don't know anybody," the student answered lamely.

"And you never will at this rate, Rynn. Besides, what about that baker? Or some of the other people we've worked with?

"Nevermind. We're leaving anyway. I've got a job for us. More like a quest, really. Do you have all your things?"

Rynn nodded. He kept his few possessions on him at all times. It was a habit or lifestyle to which he'd grown accustomed while traveling the wild.

"Good. Let's go then. A group of miners has gone missing. We are going to find them."

Miners from the city of Twilight had to travel many miles to reach the quarries in the mountains. Bands of goblins prevented any nearer settlement. So the miners worked in long shifts, bringing ore and supplies back and forth through the forest. They traveled together in large groups for safety because the forest held many dangers.

Rynn followed his master through the forest, trying his best to focus on the signs which Arandur was using to track the missing group. They had left the main, well-worn path hours ago when they found indications that something had caused the miners to flee into the woods.

Rynn looked warily around. The tree canopy prevented much light from getting through even at midday. He had only seen a few animals — mostly birds — but in the few days he'd been in Twilight he'd heard many strange and ominous rumors.

"Whatever scared the miners off the road must have been terrible, don't you think?" Rynn asked, breaking a silence of over an hour. "I mean, this forest is creepy and dangerous. They must have been desperate to come out here."

"Perhaps," Arandur replied. "But most men lose their senses when fear grips them. Like a rabbit, they'll just bolt."

Arandur wasn't much for conversation, especially while they were tracking, so Rynn kept his thoughts to himself. After another long silence, the apprentice had another question.

"Arandur, do you think we will find them alive?"

"Some of them, perhaps. If they were lucky. It has been over a week since they left Twilight."

"I hope so." Rynn said. The situation reminded him of his lost love; this led him to hope for the miners' safety. Although he knew this was a very different situation, finding them dead would further crush his ember of hope for ever finding Juliet.

"They got lost," Arandur said.


"Look at these tracks. They wander almost aimlessly and then cross back onto themselves. Looks like a few even split off from the main group."

Rynn looked more carefully at the indications his mentor was pointing out. Sure enough, the tracks bore out the story of a group searching for — perhaps even arguing about — the direction they should take. But then he noticed something else. It was a light impression; a track of something with four long toes and claws. He pointed it out to his mentor.

"Kobolds. Good work."

Another hour or so of tracking led them to a clearing where they discovered a camp of kobolds. The rangers approached cautiously, not wanting to give away their presence. The tracks had indicated that the kobolds had rounded up the miners, leading and dragging them to this location. Soon Arandur spotted the captives. Those still alive were bound to trees. One corpse near a fire indicated that the kobolds were feasting upon their prisoners.

"To free them we'll need to get rid of the kobolds first," Arandur instructed. "I count more than a dozen, but there are likely more nearby. They're cowardly though, so killing some of them will cause the others to break. I will sneak over to the south side of the camp. You stay here so we don't fire toward each other. When you hear Vanya cry out, start shooting."

Rynn's heart was pounding in his ears as he waited. He had his bow ready, and arrow nocked in the string. He watched the Kobolds and mentally marked his targets as his mentor had taught him to do.

A soft thud drew his attention to the left. One kobold had fallen to the ground, followed by a second, then a third. Arandur had begun the attack. The fourth arrow elicited a painful yelp that alerted the camp. Before they could react, Rynn also loosed an arrow. It hit the nearest enemy, but only grazed its shoulder.

The camp became a sudden clamor of excitement as the kobolds frantically yapped at each other in their strange language. Several of them charged in Arandur's direction, but a steady stream of arrows took them out before they could get near.

Two kobolds spotted Rynn and rushed out to attack. One of them was the one Rynn had already grazed, so the ranger fired a second arrow. This one struck solidly in the creature's arm, but the injury just seemed to make the kobold mad. It charged with its spear, but the bleeding arm was too slow and Rynn dodged handily out of the way.

The second creature was more successful. Rynn gasped against the pain caused by the crude spearhead cutting into his thigh. Dropping his bow, he drew his sword. Carefully he backed away from his enemies while slashing, thrusting, and parrying attacks. The kobolds followed closely, trying to flank and stab, until the ranger slipped close enough to cut down the previously injured one.

Rynn followed up with a thrust which the remaining kobold ducked underneath. Deflecting a spear thrust, he swung down hard — only to catch his blade in the dirt. Suddenly his vision blurred as a sharp pain overwhelmed him. The kobold had skewered his side. A push from the enemy knocked Rynn to the ground.

Gasping for breath, Rynn rolled onto his back. The would was bad. He could feel the blood gushing out. With one hand he instinctively pressed against the injury. The kobold loomed over him. With his left hand, the ranger grabbed for one of his daggers. But it was no use; a strong smack of the spear sent the dagger flying off into the foliage.

The kobold leveled its spear at Rynn's heart. The ranger braced himself for the final blow. Then suddenly the enemy lurched and fell on its side with an arrow embedded into its head.

Rynn woke moments later to find Arandur healing his wounds.

"You blacked out. The kobolds have scattered, but will probably find their friends and regroup. We've got to free the miners and get out of here. Can you walk?"

The magic spell cast by Arandur had knit flesh and mended organs. Rynn winced as he sat up, but nodded affirmatively to his mentor.

The two rangers moved swiftly to cut the prisoners loose. Several were injured and all were starving. The group moved slowly though the woods. Arandur had Rynn lead the way back toward the road while he kept kobold reinforcements at bay.

"To Arandur and Rynn!"

Cheers rang out through the hall and mugs of ale were raised. The families and friends of the miners were celebrating their safe return. A hearty feast had been prepared and everyone was cheerful.

Men clapped their hands on Rynn's shoulder and women thanked him, but despite this the ranger sat aloof in the corner of the room.

"This is supposed to be a celebration," Arandur told his apprentice as he shook his head. "So why not enjoy it? These people are grateful to you. You led them and hunted for their food. You brought them home."

"Well, I helped, but you give me too much credit. You did the real work, Arandur."

"That's not how I see it. Nor how any of them see it. Look."

"I know. I'm sorry. I don't want to be rude… it's just that I can't help but think of the ones that didn't make it. While we celebrate, their families weep."

"That's not entirely true, Rynn. See that woman over there? She is the widow of one of the miners that was killed by the kobolds. It is true that she's experiencing much of grief, but she also knows the joy of her brother — another of the miners — returning safely."

The elder ranger squatted down to Rynn's eye level. "There will always be sorrow in life, Rynn. We have to accept that. But there is also love and happiness to be experienced. If you throw that away then life won't be worth living."

Rynn contemplated this for a moment. Arandur was right, of course. Helping the miners had helped Rynn feel good about himself in a way he hadn't felt in a long time.

He stood up from his chair, causing Arandur to break into one of his rare smiles. Rynn picked up drinks from a nearby table and handed one to his mentor.

"To the fallen, and to life," Rynn said.

Clinking their mugs together, they drank to Rynn's toast before rejoining the festivities.