Tristan Crow by Rowan Walton

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The impact of the dart hitting the gnoll in the chest not only stopped its charge but also flung the hapless creature backwards landing on its back. The gnoll lay writhing in pain as it tried to squeal but found the wind knocked out of him. Three more of the evil creatures then entered the clearing. Twelve-year-old Tristan sprinted across the clearing to stand in front of the stunned Alwyen. The poor girl had been in the process of looking behind the great oak trunk for Landos when she heard the gut wrenching growl from the gnoll. Spinning around she froze, rooted to the spot. The three new gnolls fanned out as they tried to encircle the two youths. Tristan hoped the other children that had been playing hide and seek had run off. It only left the two of them to face this onslaught. The gnoll that Tristan had floored with the magic dart had now regained its composure and was in the process of standing up. A big scorch mark showed where the flaming dart had struck him in his chest. The smell of singed hair wafting through the clearing brought a nauseating feeling to Tristan's stomach. The gnoll rushed forward and in two long strides reached the two youngsters. The other gnolls stayed in close attendance as the leader made his way to stand in front of the two youngsters. Raising his scimitar he readied himself for the killing blow.
Tristan's breath caught in his throat as the realisation struck home that he was about to die.
The gnoll before them stared long and hard at them before it turned its head slightly and said something to the other three. Tristan could not believe his ears, could he really have understood what was said. He could not tell if he had heard or just imagined the words ‘juicy elf meat'. How was it possible that he knew the language of the gnolls when this was the first time he had ever set eyes on these creatures? He had heard Alren speak about them for hours on end, but to his knowledge, he had never taught any of their language. As the leader stepped forward, Tristan heard the familiar sounds of bowstrings snapping back into place as four arrows sped across the clearing, embedding themselves in the gnolls. Each arrow had found their mark, taking a gnoll in the neck. Dropping to their knees, they fumbled clumsily at the protruding shafts. Tristan held his ground until he could no longer see the flame of life burning in their little beady yellow eyes.

It was then that the four elven rangers made themselves known as they stepped into the clearing. They were dressed in their usual uniforms of green tunic and brown leather breeches. The blending of the colours allowed them to remain unseen throughout the forested areas of Hiethar. Alren Silverleaf quickly came to stand before his daughter. She was still in shock and had not moved. She had remained frozen the entire time during the brief encounter. Using gentle soothing words Alren coaxed his daughter back from the brink of her terror. She had almost been at the end of the gnoll's rusty scimitar but Tristan's intervention had saved her.

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