Book 1 - Page 4

21st of Number, 122

Hill Rampart life is fairly simple. For every 3 days we spend on patrol, we get one day off. Food is good, and the weather has been holding well for the last several eighths.

We've seen several minor skirmishes and have lost one man in the squad. I've gotten used to being able to shoot at another person, though I don't like it as much as others in our squad seem to.

...But despite their victories at games, the squad was still expected to run patrols. And their reputation at home did not help them when they ran into raiders.

...At first, Tilland wasn't sure he could handle firing at another person, but when the time came, he was able to notch and fire arrows as fast as the fastest in the squad. Fear and adrenaline powered his arm as he pulled back, aimed and released.

..."First hit on a body, eh?" Sergeant Linden asked him after their first encounter.

...Tilland, still holding his bow taut, just nodded.

..."It doesn't get any better. But you learn to relax more afterwards." Linden told him and then quietly walked away to let Till think about what had just happened.

...And true as Sergeant Linden said, Tilland was able to relax more after a quick melee as time went on.

...And so it continued for many eighths. During patrols, they would weave in and out of the forests that lined the hillsides in the area. Occasionally, they would encounter bandits or troops from the north and exchange fire. But more often than not, the patrols were uneventful, if long, marches.

...Harvest season had settled on the low hills where the rampart stood. The squads that had been new recruits just a few eighths ago were now more seasoned, more tamed by fighting.

...And the fighting became more frequent. Tremen forces tested the borders more frequently and with greater forces. And the patrols became harder and more frequent as the Harvest nights became colder and longer.

..."Look out!" Sergeant Linden called as he dove behind a small sapling.

...Tilland's mind had wandered from the endless march and to the pages he had entered the night before. Thuck. His mind snapped back as a heavy bolt struck the squadman in front of him.

...Till dove for cover and instinctively pulled his bow and notched an arrow. He couldn't see who was firing at them, but knew the sound of a heavy bolt striking the tree where he hid. Thuck. Thuck. A second and third squadmate fell as more bolts arced in from behind them.

..."Ambush!!" someone yelled from his right.

...Tilland fired arrow after arrow blindly into the trees near where he saw some flickering of movement. Thudd. His arrow found a tree. More bolts found their mark around him as his squademates fell.

...Tilland felt the urge to run, but knew he had nowhere to run to. He fired an arrow at a moving tree and heard the thuck of a hit. Two more arrows. Thuck. Thuck. Two more hits.

...Tilland reached back but found he had fired his last arrow. Darting towards where he had seen his squad move, Till realized that he had been the only one firing. He jumped over a small berm as bolts struck where he had been standing. Thump.

...In the ditch he found the near lifeless bodies of several of his squad. Sergeant Linden had a bolt jutting from his chest, and Madsen held his bloody hand in an attempt to wield his bow. Without thinking, Till grabbed a handful of arrows and fired over the top of the dirt mound. Thudd. Thudd. Thuck.

...Tilland felt the urge to run again, but this time it wasn't aimless fear, this time it was a much more directional call. A deep urge to head to a specific place. He paused for a moment as a bolt whizzed over his head. "There!" He called, pointing past a small copse of trees.

...Madsen dropped down to where Till was wrapping the wounds on the injured. "What? Where?"

I don't know what came over me. Madsen said he had never heard anyone speak with a voice like that. He said he just did what I said without thinking, like it was something he had always done.

...Till shoved Madsen towards the thick trees. "There! Grab someone and go!!" His voice took on an unfamiliar tone, but Madsen didn't even think before he moved off, dragging Sergeant Linden behind him.

...Till stood and fired again, bolts struck the dirt beside him, and the few who were able to still move staggered to where Madsen led. When Till ran out of arrows, he grabbed the last of the wounded and ran-stumbled towards where he had sent his friends.

...Behind the trees, he found them hiding in a small cave, hidden behind the wood in a small rock outcropping. Madsen helped him drag in those who couldn't quite make it and they readied themselves for the second attack.

...But the attack never came. And as the day slowly dragged on, they did what they could to help the wounded. And as night fell, they stumbled through the dark forest to make their way back to the rampart.

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