The story below is a winner from our Fiction Fantastic Young Writers Contest, open to all youth in Lane County. For more information on this contest, including how to enter, visit here. Support this program with a donation.
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“The Battle for Duruntar” by Kai Suzumura, Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School
Second Place, Middle School Level, 2023
The Battle For Duruntar
Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School
Sacadrin knelt down, studying a strange track in the ground. The imprint in the soft dirt was partially covered by a decomposing felled tree.
“This is confusing,” he thought. “What track is this?”
As he contemplated the imprint, he had a memory. It was of him and his older brother, Borvian. Borvian had been teaching him tracking, and the two of them were following a pack of deer. Sacadrin, at the time, had only been seven and had accidentally chased the deer away. He remembered Borvian scolding him for dispersing the animals. His brother had been a hard teacher, but that is what had made him a good one. These days, Sacadrin hardly ever saw his brother. It was sad, but he had to live with it.
When Sacadrin turned ten, Borvian was appointed commander of the Crow Clan, a group of mercenaries tasked with protecting the borderland into the mountains, and hunting down outlaws and bandits.He was stationed at Fort Duruntar, and he moved away from his younger brother. Then, a few years later, Sacadrin joined the Crow Clan, too. Even still, his brother was too busy commanding Duruntar, and Sacadrin was too busy with his own duties.
Sacadrin looked for more of the strange tracks, and found them leading off toward a slightly concealed path. As he followed the tracks with his expert eyes, he noticed something off, something he couldn’t place. He was just about to hop over the tree and take a closer look, when he heard something familiar—something he had heard hundreds of times practicing with the weapon—the release of a crossbow. Instinctively, he crouched, ducking behind the old tree as several arrows flew over the obstruction, barely missing him as they whistled through the space he previously occupied. He shuddered, wincing at the thought of how close he had just come to being pierced by the projectiles. He cautiously glanced over the log, searching for his attackers. He found them, taking cover in the shrub a good distance away.
“Mountain Goblins! Of course!” That was the track he couldn’t identify.
The goblins hissed and spat at him as they reloaded their weapons. He quickly took action and vaulted over the log, leaping behind a tree as the goblins took another shot at him. He hastily and clumsily unbuckled the hand crossbow hanging from his belt, loading a short bolt from a watertight case strapped to his thigh. He waited until the goblins finished reloading again, and quickly stuck his arm in the open. When he heard the goblins fire, he pulled back—just as their arrows scraped the side of the tree, one embedding deeply in the trunk. Once their weapons were again emptied, he swung around the tree, quickly aimed, and fired his hand crossbow at the nearest of the gnarly creatures. The bolt struck the goblin’s chest, piercing the thin leather armor it wore. The goblins, confused and startled at the wailing cry of their fallen comrade, never noticed Sacadrin sneak up behind them, quickly ending their lives.
Sacadrin bent down and scanned the bodies of the goblins. “What are they doing here? They should be up in the hills, not down here in the lowland.”
Suddenly, the distinctive blare of a goblin war horn pierced the air. He winced, a sense of urgency filling him. He was about to rise, when a worn roll of parchment caught his attention. He picked up the paper and untied a strip of leather cordage keeping it rolled up. Sacadrin tried to read what the paper said, but it was written in goblin.
“I better take this back to the Crow Clan base; Sir Ronwell should be able to decipher goblin.”
Chapter One: One Week Later
Sacadrin collapsed to the ground. He was exhausted and aching; every part of him wanted to lie there and rest but he couldn’t. A blood curdling, howlish scream reminded him of the fact, and he slowly rose and began to run again. Ahead of him, in a small opening in the trees, a large pile of dead branches caught his attention and he dove into it, covering himself in the shrubbery. Not a moment later, the wretched looking creature that had been pursuing him burst into the clearing. The face of the beast was grotesque and wolf-like. It stood upright and wore crudely made bronze scale mail shoulder pieces, along with a leather wrap protecting its abdomen. In its hand was a primitive but deadly weapon: a spear made of a straight pine branch and topped with a roughly pounded bronze tip, the wood beneath stained red from the blood of its victims. The creature had matted, orange-red hair and razor sharp fangs. Slimy drool ran down its gaping jaw. The monster searched the clearing with one sharp, darting eye. A wicked scar ran from its forehead, through its other ruined, milky-white eye to its lower jaw. From inside the heap of dead branches, Sacadrin saw the bent shape of the thing, standing much too close, its legs making the shape of a Z, like a man-sized dog walking on its hind legs. The beast was scanning the clearing and listening intently for its prey, the man that seemed so vulnerable. Sacadrin tried his best to lie motionless, for the slightest movement could cause one of the dried branches to snap, and he knew the creature would be on him in seconds if that happened. Agonizingly slowly, it moved across the small clearing. Growling, as if in frustration at its lost quarry, the thing stepped into the trees.
Chapter Two: Inside the Crow Clan Headquarters
Ronwell, leader of the Crow Clan, and commander of their fighters, sat at his desk. He was filling out paperwork for casualties. It was a sad job, seeing the names of Crow Clan members who had died. All of the names of people on the lists, he knew personally. Most of these deaths were members who died in a battle that started several weeks ago, when a goblin warlord besieged the Clan’s headquarters. At first, his fighters had pushed the goblins back, but eventually, being made up of mercenaries and not trained soldiers, the Clan was driven back. Ronwell finished filling out the pile of documents in front of him and stood up. He stretched and yawned, trying to shake off the fatigue. There came a knock at his door and a young member of the clan entered his study.
“Ah, Jacob, I’ve been expecting you,” Ronwell said, sitting back down. “What information do you have for me today?”
“Sir, I am here to inform you that we need reinforcements. We lost two dozen fighters overnight; the enemy launched a surprise attack on us,” Jacob said.
Ronwell cursed under his breath.
“There is some good news, sir. Although we thought they would overrun us, the goblins have retreated and we haven’t seen them since last night. We sent a scout team to investigate. We expect an update soon.”
“Right, then, I will send a note up to our allies. It’s about time someone more fit for this battle shows up,” Ronwell said.
After a moment of silence between the two, another knock at the door revealed Norvid, a lieutenant who led the Crow Clan scouts.
“Sir! You’re needed at the front gate! The scouts and I just returned. A band of orcs followed us to the fort, and we barely made it in the gates before they caught up to us. You need to come quickly, we are under full assault!”
Ronwell stood hastily, strode to a large cabinet, and opened its squeaky doors. Inside was an aging rack of weapons, their dusty metal catching the waning fall light cast by the many windows in the room. Ronwell grabbed a two-handed sword and grunted at the familiar weight of the heavy steel blade. He slid the weapon in a leather scabbard and strapped it to his belt.
“Didn’t think I would be needing this again,” Ronwell said. “Let’s hope I’m not as rusty as this old blade.” So armed, Ronwell turned to face the younger men and they headed for the front gate.
Chapter Three: The Beast
Sacadrin’s legs had long since lost feeling. As the beast reached the edge of the clearing and headed into the treeline, he finally relaxed. That was a mistake. As he shifted, a branch under him snapped. Instantly the creature snarled and turned in his direction. Sacadrin’s adrenaline surged as the beast started swiftly towards him. Just then, an arrow seemed to appear in the back of the thing’s neck. The beast let out a howling, blood-curdling scream and turned, looking back toward the trees. When the creature turned, Sacadrin saw that the arrow had not pierced the brute’s thick hair, but merely dangled, caught in the amber strands. Across the clearing, Sacadrin saw someone he had not seen for a long time, Lunor Havin. Lunor, a lifelong friend of Sacadrin, stood yelling and waving his arms.
“Hey, slobber face, over here!” Lunor yelled. “Come pick on someone actually fit to fight!”
Sacadrin shook his head and smiled at the taunt as he watched Lunor flex his muscles at the now furious creature. The monster charged Lunor. As the beast neared him, Lunor jumped, grabbing a tree branch above him. Not a moment after Lunor swung onto the branch in safety, the monster charged straight past him, running headlong into the trunk of the tree. The impact of the massive beast shook the tree. The branch Lunor held onto snapped, dislodged from the tree, and crashed to the ground. Lunor fell hard, the wind knocked from his lungs. The creature got its bearings back and started unsteadily towards Lunor. Lunor tried to get his limbs to move, but his burning lungs couldn’t manage a breath. He could only lie there, watching his death coming towards him. The thing raised its spear, but as it brought the weapon down to strike, it was violently torn from the beast’s hands and propelled several feet away. Embedded in the shaft was a short, crossbow bolt. A few seconds later, another bolt landed in the beast’s unprotected neck. The sharp projectile pierced the brute’s thick hide, tearing completely through the creature’s throat. A perfect shot. Sacadrin ran to his old friend and helped him sit up.
“Thanks for saving me,” Sacadrin said. Lunor gave him a weak smile. “Just like the old times.”
“What do you call your new friend?” Lunor said, motioning to the dead beast.
“I have no idea. It picked up my scent at daybreak and has been on my heels for the last ten miles. But, there’s something else, and I can use your help,” Sacadrin said, pulling out the parchment he collected from the mountain goblins.
“I was attacked by a group of mountain goblins. Found this on them. I need to go to headquarters to get it translated. I suspect it might tell us why the goblins are attacking the Clan in the lowlands.”
Chapter Four: At the Crow Clan Headquarters
Sir Ronwell swung his heavy sword at an orc climbing over the fortress wall.The sword hit the orc’s shoulder and sent the monster flying towards the ground far below.
“Kadfall, help me over here,” Ronwell yelled to one of the fighters next to him as three more orcs breached the wall. Kadfall ran over, jabbing his halberd at the closest orc. Ronwell swung a downward blow, almost cleaving one orc in half.
After Kadfall stabbed the third orc, Ronwell pushed the ladder the enemy was using away from the wall. He paused to look over the battlements, watching the ladder fall into the tide of monsters. The “band” of orcs the scouts reported had turned into a massive war party.
“Sir Ronwell! Sir,” a voice called from behind him. Ronwell turned to find Sacadrin, a senior clan member running towards him. “Sir, I have something to show you.”
Sacadrin handed Ronwell the parchment he found on the goblins. Sheathing his no longer dusty weapon, Ronwell scrunched up his face in confusion as he tried to make sense of the message written in goblin.
“Give me a minute to decipher this,” Ronwell said, turning away from the wall.
“Come here, Sacadrin, I want to see your skill in shooting,” beckoned Lunor, who had come with him to decipher the message.
Sacadrin walked over to his friend, pulling his crossbow from his belt.
“What should I hit?” Sacadrin asked, loading his weapon.
“See that orc with the big flail? You hit the metal spike ball, I will finish him off,” Lunor replied, slinging his longbow from his back and knocking an arrow on the string.
Sacadrin raised his crossbow and aimed at his target. Sacadrin released, letting his crossbow slump naturally to one side of his hands, preventing a jerk that could spoil his shot.
Lunor pulled back on his bow string; it was a smooth draw, his front and back arm in perfect alignment. Accounting for the distance, he raised his aim slightly. After holding for a few seconds, he relaxed his drawing fingers and let the string leave his grip. After the arrow left the bow, he held his form for just a second, then let down, stepping forward to peer over the wall. Sacadrin’s first arrow hit the flail top, and the weapon was knocked from the orc’s grip. The startled monster looked up, only to find its face in the path of Lunor’s arrow. The beast fell to the ground, disappearing beneath the dozens of orcs. Lunor and Sacadrin high fived each other, smiling childishly.
“Sacadrin! I deciphered the message!” Ronwell yelled, waving the paper in the air.
Sacadrin ran to him.
“What does it say?” Sacadrin asked, craning his head over Ronwell’s shoulder to see what was written. The smile slowly disappeared from Sacadrin’s face as he read the translated words on the paper.
All goblin brothers! Regroup at main camp to begin the march to Crow base Durantar.
Orc allies will attack and hold off the Crow Clan at their headquarters.
Our mighty goblin armies have taken the fort as well as its leader, Borvian. We will march on Durantar, take weapons and prisoners. With this victory we will defeat worthless Crow Clan human scum!
“Sorry about your brother, Sacadrin. I am sure we will get Borvian back,” Ronwell said as he noticed Sacadrin’s face.
“Borvian . . . brother, I . . .” Sacadrin slowly slumped to his knees.
After a moment, Sacadrin stood and turned to face Ronwell.
“I am going to get my brother back, and our fort. Can you supply me with some fighters?”
Chapter Five: Three Weeks after the Message Was Deciphered
Sacadrin and Lunor led a band of seventy Crow Clan fighters to reclaim Duruntar.
“Come on. Let’s go. Move in. Move in!” The cry could barely be heard above the sound of bows and crossbows being fired, swords and shields clashing, and the screams of soldiers pushing against their relentless goblin adversaries. The Crow Clan had rallied together overnight, using their skills of archery, ambush, and traps to get the better of the goblins. At that moment, they had the upper hand in the battle, and they moved closer to taking back the fort every hour.
“Come on!” Sacadrin’s cry came, and Clan members popped out of cover behind a barricade, letting loose another volley of arrows at goblins pressing their position. With that distraction, more members charged, cutting the enemy down like a blade through grass.
Two days later the Clan breached Duruntar. Most goblins were either dead, or had fled.
Sacadrin, followed by a dozen clan members crept down a hallway within Fort Duruntar. Light from braizers along the corridor lit the bodies of the dead. Goblins and Clan members lay in unnatural positions on the floor. As they moved down the hallway, they came upon a large, ironclad door that blocked their way. Sacadrin signaled to members behind him, and two with spears moved to flank either side of the door. Another, seeing no lock hole, charged the door, crashing into it with his massive shoulder. The door flung open, teetering on its hinges from the force of the blow. The two spearmen swung around the door frame, ready to attack. Scattered inside the room were large cages, each holding half a dozen Crow Clan members. A group of goblins guarded them. The spearmen charged forward, stabbing and slashing the enemy before them. Then, to back them up, the rest of the Clan members took the rest of the goblins down with arrows. Minutes later, the goblins lay motionless, gnarly gashes covering them, or arrows protruding from their corpses. The prisoners called out for help. While the other fighters went to release the captives, Sacadrin went to one cage in particular—the one holding his brother.
“Borvian!!!” Sacadrin screamed. He ran to his brother crying. Instead of picking the lock on the cage like he was taught, he drew a knife and hacked at it until it shattered, dulling the blade.
“Brother, I thought you were dead!” Sacadrin said, helping Borvian out of the cage and squeezing him tight.
“Careful, you’ll break my ribs!” Borvian said, clasping his younger brother. “That was an unconventional way to open the cage. You’ll ruin your blade.”
“Let’s get you back to the base,” Sacadrin said, hugging his brother tight as he led him out of the room, careful not to let him go. Sacadrin and Lunor stayed on with Borvian to help restore the fort and help with the wounded.
At the Battle Of Duruntar, the Crow Clan emerged victorious; the fort and many Crow Clan lives were saved by Sacadrin and Lunor.
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