Chapter One: A Home beneath the Trees.

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     Dimwalden Forest, Northern Caraca, Netheron:

     A late autumn breeze wafted through the trees, loosing clouds of orange, yellow, and brown leaves from their holds, leaving them to flutter down between the trunks of the massive oaks, maples, aspen, and birch that made up the forest, and finally come to rest on the silent forest floor.

      Tauren Netharu gazed up from the small, rocky forest stream he knelt by, scanning the dark forest about him with a hunter’s eye for his prey. A waft of the breeze swept down from the towering treetops, having made it through the dense foliage, ruffled his light brown hair and then wafted away into the forest behind him. His blue eyes, sharp and careful, snapped down to the small print in the soft mud by the creek, the deer he was tracking was close, he knew, for the mud it had stirred up in taking its drink had yet to be swept down the stream.     

     Slowly, with infinite care not to make any noise, he reached over to the side, and picked up his bow from where he had set it on the rocks. Carefully lifting an arrow from the quiver at his belt, he laid its maple shaft onto the aspen bow. He stood slowly, gazing intently at the spot in the underbrush on the other side of the creek where he was certain he had seen the movement, slowly he tensed the bowstring, then, smoothly, without a single moment of hesitation leaped forward, vaulted off a rock and across the stream, landing with complete silence right behind the tree where he knew the deer was resting.

     He took a deep breath, it would not do to alert his prey to his presence and lose his only chance for that day, he needed this meat desperately, today was recruiting day for the Arrel army, and while chances were slim that he would be recruited this year, he had to be ready for any eventuality, and if his grandfather didn’t have enough money to stay alive for the next two years before Tauren got back from the allotted service period, then he would be terribly hard pressed to feed himself.

     It wasn’t that Edrin Netharu was a weak old man, quite the contrary, he was fit, strong, and healthy, never having been able to quite loose his warriors touch that he had gained over his years of service in the Arrel army, but the people of the area didn’t trust him, indeed, they feared him, and though that was a good thing in the old man’s eyes, it was a huge hindrance in for him in trying to find some employment, and living off the land as Tauren did was ‘ dishonorable for a warrior ‘ in his opinion. An opinion Tauren was vehemently opposed to.

     Tauren shook his head, clearing his mind of all thought, not wanting to argue with himself the fine points of his grandfather’s philosophy at the moment. That would never do. Slowly he took a deep breath, and then, in a single movement, spun out from behind the tree, pulling the string back to his ear and loosing in a single movement.

   It was a shot that bordered on instinctive, he had guessed where the massive buck would be lying and the moment the arrow had begun its deadly flight, he knew that he had guessed correctly.

      The huge buck was lying still on the leaves of the forest floor, its head raised, listening intently, its huge brown eyes alert. The instant it saw the blur of movement as Tauren leaped out from behind the tree, it had leaped up with incredible speed, and was in mid bound as Taurens arrow slammed into its heart, stopping it dead cold in the air and throwing it onto its side, its head slamming with a sickening snap against a tree trunk.

    Tauren landed perfectly, and standing from his squat, replaced the arrow he had automatically applied to the bow string in his quiver, and then paced over to the buck, gazing over its gallant head, its sweeping antlers, and at last resting his eyes on its beautiful brown fur. He felt a twinge of sadness at having to kill the majestic creature, there were plenty of them in the area, and killing one would make no difference to their numbers, but he still felt bad about the deed, he sighed, reaching inside his leather jerkin and pulling out his long, razor sharp, hunting knife. His grandfather always had told him that it would be a bad thing if he felt no remorse at destroying beauty.

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