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Hunted

Prologue

By Luke FosterPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 8 min read
10
Hunted
Photo by Deglee Ganzorig on Unsplash

There weren't always Dragons in the valley. That was a simpler time, A safer time.

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His breath came in ragged, stabbing bursts, and his lungs burned with every step. The undergrowth rustled around his feet and occasionally snagging on the hem of his robes. His spindly legs pumped as he navigated through the trees.

Ravel was unused to physical activity, and the exertion was quickly taking its toll. Whilst a young man, he was never athletic, and the sedentary lifestyle of the monastery suited him well. His father had tried to push him into athletic endeavour during his childhood, with no success. Ravel wished he had been a little more committed to that now.

Ravel had joined the monastery as soon as he was old enough to leave home, and his father seemed happy to see him go. He had thrived in the academic environment, and would have happily spent his days in the monastery library. He had little interest in the religious studies, or the gardening, but they were small prices to pay for the safety and sense of belonging he felt.

That all changed in the last few months. The Duke of the Valley had been away for almost a year, no-one seemed to know where he had gone, but when he came back it appeared he brought a dark cloud with him that filled the whole valley.

Shortly after the return of the Duke, he removed the majority of the city council and replaced them. He also brought a force of nearly two thousand soldiers, the Dragon Guard, who had immediately been installed as the Duke's personal guard, the city guard, and as reinforcements for the southern lines.

Shortly after, things started to go bad. Certain prominent city folk started being brought in for questioning by the new city guard, and some of them weren't heard from again. Laws became more strict, and the common folk began to feel the pinch. People were staying indoors more, not talking with others on the street, and the atmosphere suffered.

The monastery brought this to the new city council, the senior brother making the journey himself to the council buildings to plead the case on behalf of the city folk. The council listened to the senior brother, they were polite and receptive to what he had to say. The next day two priests were beaten in the street as they made their way around the poor quarter.

The captain of the city guard told the senior brother that they were set upon by a group of thugs, but the monastery had tended to the people of this neighbourhood for many years. The priests provided medical aid and were an integral part of the community. Every priest knew every man, woman and child in this area of the city, and could always walk without fear. Until now.

Ravel was naturally a fearful young man, he had been all his life. He shunned the more boisterous activities of his peers, and had always avoided confrontation. So after the attack of two of his brethren, he beseeched the senior brother to move the monastery out of the valley, and out of the Duke's lands. The senior brother chided him for trying to abandon their city and told him that he would be taking care of it.

The senior brother wrote to the duke directly, to address the attack, and the recent changes to city policy. He had a good relationship with the former duke, the father of the current one, and was confident that this could be resolved. He never heard back from the duke, but a few days after the council released a statement that the church was not to practise within the city walls.

Some of the younger brothers of the order left the monastery at this point, some returned to city to be with their families and others left the valley altogether. Ravel sorely wanted to join the brothers leaving the duke's lands, but was too afraid of where he would go and what h would do. He doubted that his father would take him back in kindly. So he stayed, and he fretted.

When asked to go into the city to pick up supplies, Ravel could not think of anything he wanted to do less, but the senior brother was insistent, and he went with two more experienced brothers, so felt they would be safe.

The incessant barking brought him back from his reverie, Ravel had rested against a tree to catch his breath from the chase, but he dare not tarry. He attempted to cut across a stream but slipped on crossing and fell face into the muddy bank. The mud was cool on his sweaty face and he breathed in the scent of the mud.

He considered giving up, just laying there in the cool dirt until the hunters caught up with him. When he and his fellow brothers were accosted, everything happened so quickly. The men who attacked them were dressed in street clothes, but were members of the city guard. Brother Taybor was beaten to death right there in the street, Ravel was horrified by the lifeless eyes as he was dragged away.

A few days later this seemed like the kinder of their fates. Ravel and Brother Malan were kept in a damp, tiny cell beneath the Dragon Guard barracks. They were both in bad shape, and they were not fed for three days, and Malan eventually succumbed to his injuries.

As he lay in the mud, Ravel wasn't sure who out of the three of them had been given the worse deal. His fear of death was still just about outweighing his desire to just stay there and give up. The barking of the dogs got louder as they approached closer. With a heaving sigh, Ravel picked himself up and set off moving.

He needed to get out of the valley, he didn't know what direction would be quickest, but to his left the ground started to rise upwards, so he headed that way and puffed his way up the slope. The sounds of the dogs and shoutings of the hunters were starting to fade a little and this gave him an extra burst of strength. This didn't carry him far, and he soon needed to rest in a small clearing.

The barking was at the very edge of his earshot now, and it looked like they had lost his trail. Ravel sank to the ground and let out a sob of relief. It looked like he might actually make it out alive. He didn't know where he was going to go, but being able to do so was enough for him.

"Everyone always thinks that once the dogs are gone, they are safe. That they don't have to keep running. Such a mistake."

The voice was a deep drawl that chilled Ravel to the bone. The dread Captain Carlus, sadistic leader of the city guard, and organiser of these little hunts, rounded a large boulder in front of Ravel, in his hand was a wicked looking hunting knife.

Ravel was utterly defeated, he was so drained that he couldn't even raise the energy to beg for his life. He stayed where he was, sat on the damp grass, and watched as death approached him. Carlus was unhurried, knowing he had his man, and amused by the fact that his victim was paralyzed with terror.

"You, little man, are an enemy of the state." he flicked the knife from hand to hand as he spoke, watching the little priests eyes flicker to follow it. "Your kind are going to be wiped from memory, and you are going to be first."

Ravel squeezed his eyes shut as the captain stood over him, bracing his body in anticipation of the killing blow. He wished he had at least put up some kind of resistance, he could hear his fathers voice telling him not to be a coward, to stand up and fight and die like a man. But he just couldn't, he had nothing left. He would die like he lived, disappointing his father.

"An unarmed priest. A fine bounty you've found here, Carlus."

Ravel couldn't help himself, he pried his eyes open, just a crack, to see a tall man stroll through the trees. He was dressed for riding, with a sky blue shirt beneath a dark jerkin, with leather trousers and calf length boots. It was apparent, even to Ravel, that this man was a soldier, even without seeing the sword in the scabbard around his shoulders, or the knife in his belt.

Wonderful, Ravel thought, another wolf to share in the kill.

"What are you doing here, Lieutenant Jothan? The Duke's guard has no influence outside the palace!"

Ravel was confused, Carlus seemed wary of the newcomer, in stark contrast to his easy manner moments ago. There was nothing Ravel could think of to do to influence the situation, so he stayed quiet.

"These games are going to stop now, Carlus. Terrorising and murdering are no pursuits for a captain of the Dragon Guard." There was a confidence in the way the newcomer spoke, regardless of the fact that Carlus was the higher ranking officer, and holding a knife.

"This is not your business, Lieutenant. Leave now or this insubordination will be reported to Councillor Tyron." Carlus' voice rose to a shout as he spoke, and he licked his lips as he wielded the knife in the tall swordsman's direction.

"You'll find it difficult to report anything to Tyron from now on, unless you've learned how to commune with the spirits." Jothan continued to keep his voice even, but his eyes betrayed emotion. "As I said, Carlus, the games are over."

Captain Carlus was incredulous at the news. "You killed the councillor? Traitor!"

He rushed as Jothan, knife raised high. Jothan side stepped his rush and turned to watch as Carlus took two or three further steps before collapsing to the ground. Ravel looked on baffled, waiting for Carlus to get up but he didn't. Jothan walked over to where Carlus lay and flipped him over onto his back.

Ravel gasped as he saw the knife jutting from under the jaw of the now former captain. Replaying the incident in his mind, he didn't see a sign of the newcomer pulling the knife from his belt, or him striking home. The man moved with lightning speed. Jothan pulled the knife from the corpse and wiped it clean on the grass.

He moved back into the trees and Ravel continued to sit in the grass, processing what had just happened. Jothan came back into the clearing, now atop a tall chestnut horse. From Ravel's perspective he looked like a giant.

"You have found yourself a second chance at life, young priest. I would suggest that you don't waste it, and find somewhere safe."

With that he rode off beneath the canopy of the trees as Ravel watched on. He was just out of sight when Ravel finally found his voice again.

"Thank you."

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If you enjoyed this, please continue with the next part of the story here

https://vocal.media/fiction/family-ties-4gokt009ot

Fantasy
10

About the Creator

Luke Foster

Father. New husband. Wannabe writer.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (9)

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  • Dylan Crice2 years ago

    Great story. Love your opening. Certainly starts in the middle of the action or “the hunt.” As someone that struggles with my openings this beginning got me well invested in story. Enjoyed Ravel and thought he was very relatable in the sense that he could serve as vehicle for audiences to explore your world.

  • C. H. Richard2 years ago

    Subscribed

  • C. H. Richard2 years ago

    I love the character of Ravel. Well done!

  • Rebecca Johnson2 years ago

    I really appreciate that your protagonist, Ravel, isn't a fearless hero. His fears and doubts make him a relatable (and easy to root for) main character. There's a lot of potential for an expanded story here!

  • Atomic Historian2 years ago

    Excellent!

  • Penny Fuller2 years ago

    I love that you end this prologue with a rescue that obligates Ravel to give back. It's a smart writing choice to keep readers waiting for that repayment. Well done.

  • EJ Ferguson2 years ago

    Strong choice of scene for an opening, the chase pulls you straight into the action. It's written very well, you have an engaging style and it's an interesting start. Nicely done :)

  • Fantastic story!

  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Outstanding!!!😊💕

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