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Ransom's Sling Brigade

The one thing me Great Great Granpa, Ransom, were most persistent about were his sling. He had an old leather one that he always did his own repairs to, and he were a deadly shot with it. Nothing could distract him when he had a target sighted.

Folk told him time and again he should throw that old sling away and get a new one, but he wouldn't hear of it. He believed the strength of the beast were still in the leather. Every night he would sit by the fire and rub it down with his own special mix. "To keep the leather fresh," he would tell any that asked.

Ransom had many sons and taught each one in the use of the sling. He showed each boy how to make their own. He knew that at first the slings would never last no matter what they were made of, so he always started them out with a worn dishrag.

Each son practiced many an anlas, until they were ready fer their first hunt. Then Ransom helped 'em find the best mix fer keepin' their slings fresh and strong.

Now, don't be thinkin' he told his own mix. By Ransom's thinkin', each kind of hide were different. What worked on one, might not treat another too well. So each son had to find their own mix of herbs and oils and such. The youngest even tried a mix with skunk oil once. He couldn't get close enough to a critter to use his sling fer a week!

Despite occasional mishaps, the boys practiced hard to please their Papa, and grew up well armed. The Snarfn'tart clan soon became well known fer their prowess with the sling, at least in their little part of the world. Traders began to come by on a regular basis to take all the skins and hides off their hands. The Snarfn'tarts were happy with their lives... until trouble came brewin'.

There had been fussin' amongst neighbors afore, but nothin' the likes of this in Ransom's time. Now, Ransom never were one fer politics, nor which neighbor were mad at another. Nor were he one fer carin' about who thought themselves to be king of this or that. But, when it got so's it were interruptin' his huntin', that be when he took notice.

Smoke began to fill the horizon by day. Far off fires could be seen at night, and somethin' roamed the forest nearby. Somethin' that wouldn't show itself to men, or weren't close enough to be seen yet, were scarin' off the local critters.

Ransom wanted to know what were happenin' to his home. A trip to the local tavern would have been a good place to start, if it hadn't burnt to the ground some years back. The Snarfn'tarts hadn't really worried too much about it when it happened, as the traders brought them all the ale they needed. So, he set out to learn what were causin' all the fuss.

As the days passed the skies darkened even more by day, and grew even brighter by night. Whatever the trouble, it were gettin' closer. The Snarfn'tart sons began to prepare for the worst as they waited for news.

Finally, after being gone for three days, Ransom came runnin' up the path to his sons, shoutin' out orders all the way. "Get yer best slings and knives, boys, we got huntin' to do. Take only what ye need. This is gona be a fight on the run!"

The boys heeded their Papa's words without hesitation and were ready to go in a blink. After refillin' his ale-skin, Ransom were ready too. As the sun began to set, the Snarfn'tart sling brigade took to the road.

There were indeed a battle goin' on a few day's walk from the Snarfn'tart home. As had happened through time, yet another were claimin' to be the new rule of the land. Ransom cared little enough about it , but it seemed the battle between the men had scattered these new beasts out of their homelands and into his wood.

Keepin' a brisk pace, Ransom proceeded to tell all he had learned of the creature, and between them, they began to work out a strategy for the hunt. Along the way, others began to join in. The neighbors knew old Snarfn'tart would not venture this far with all his sons in tow were it not important. As they were told of the brigade's intentions, they gathered their own arms, slings mostly, and joined the march. Through the night they kept up the pace. The sounds of man and beast in battle drew near.

As a smoke filtered Xibar approached it's zenith, they came to a clearin'. Ransom ordered silence as he surveyed the area. Something were near. Very near. A strange chill were in the air. A shiver went up each and every olvi spine as they heard a scream that could curl foothair.

There, across the clearin', were one of the creatures Ransom had described. It almost looked like a woman, but it's color were very wrong. Sickly pale blue it were, like it were dead and frozen. Yet, it still moved! Fresh blood dripped from it's mouth and hands. At it's feet lay what were left of at least two men. Another scream echoed from beyond the clearin'.

Ransom turned to his sons and looked them over. The boys straightened up and stood tall as they could. Each had already drawn and loaded his sling. Ransom nodded his approval and looked to the others. Not a one turned away. Ransom nodded again, and the sling brigade set to work.

It were quite a sight. They worked together as if they had done so fer years. One would lure a target to an open spot where the others would let loose a fury of rocks, flakes, and anything else they could fit in the slings. The youngest Snarfn'tart were given the chore of gatherin' ammunition after each volley, making sure the others didn't run out.

It didn't take long to figure out why the beasts were called frostweavers. As soon as one drew close enough to a hunter, it hurled its magic, weavin' icy patches underfoot. After that discovery, only the faster and more agile of the lot were allowed to be the lure.

As they drew closer to the battle between the men, their ranks began swellin'. Folk who had been out here to fight for or against the new ruler began workin' together to kill these beasts. The hunt went on the rest of the night and well into the next day. The brigade had covered alot of ground, kilt many a beast, and had doubled in number.

As the group approached the edge of the great forest, it were Laethan, the youngest Snarfn'tart son who finally took a turn as lure. Without hesitation, and afore his Papa could change his mind, the boy hurried off to find the next target. So excited he were to do his part, that he tore through the trees as fast as he could go. His heart pounded nearly right out of his chest as the forest went by in a green blur.

Ransom hurried his brigade to keep up, immediately regrettin' the decision to let the boy go. They had not lost a single man as yet, and he didn't want his youngest to be the first. The boy always had been stubborn, charging in to do things his own way. Just like his Papa, he were.

Just as the lures afore him, Laethan let out a yell to let the group know he were headed back their way. "Durn fool," Ransom cursed under his breath. The boy were too close. He hadn't given them time enough to get into position. In just a few more steps they reached a clearin'. Comin' fast from the other side were Laethan, two frosweavers hot on his heels.

His brothers began yellin' as their slings began to twirl. The trailin' weaver stopped at the noise and turned its head. Through dead eyes it stared straight at Ransom. Ransom's brow furrowed. He could have sworn the thing smiled at him. The men began to spread out to surround the creatures. Then, as if on cue, two more of the creatures broke the tree line at just the right spot to come between Ransom and the rest of the brigade.

Laethan let out another whoop. He were grinnin' from ear to ear as he hopped over bushes and fallen logs. Proud of himself, he were, fer bringin' so many in at once. None of the others had done as much. But the grin disappeared quick enough when he went trippin' over a root, flyin' head first into a taffleberry bush.

As the boy rolled, he felt an icy cold blast just behind him. He turned to get up and caught sight of his Papa, and the weaver bearin' down on him as he took aim with his sling... at a different weaver! He ignored his own peril!

Laethan knew what his Papa had in mind and he also knew he couldn't let it happen. Not this way. Not because of him. He continued to roll and stumble away from the beast as he fumbled with his pack.

He quickly realized he would never get to his feet in time, much less draw and load his sling. So, he reversed his roll and pushed off with all the strength in his short legs. Head over heels he went, straight at the weaver!

The creature screeched an angry curse at the boy and began waving its arms about. Another freezing blast shot by Laethan's head as his roll took him between the weaver's legs. Timing it just right, Laethan came out of the roll on his feet. His momentum still with him, he was off and runnin', leavin' the weaver slippin' and flailin' on the icy patch now under its feet.

At almost the same instant, two missels took to the air, crossin' paths at the midpoint of the clearin'.  The rock flake from Ransom's sling were as true as any he'd ever launched. It buried deep into the center of the creature's chest before the thing could regain its footing. Between the force of the blow and the ice under its feet the weaver sat down, rather unceremoniously, a look of total surprise on its face. Dark, almost black blood dribbled from the wound.

The beast bearin' down on Ransom took a smack to the forehead. It stood blinking and dazed as it swayed back and forth. On their feet and side by side, Ransom and Laethan were once again on the offensive. All four frostweavers were down and dead in just a few roisen.

As the group surveyed the scene, Laethan walked past the beast that had been after his Papa. After a quick search of the brush he reached down and picked up a jar. He smiled, looked the jar over, kissed it and put it in his pack. "What's that?" Ransom wanted to know.

Laethan blushed, "Skunk oil mix. It were all I had worth throwin' without me sling." Ransom shook his head and suppressed a smile.

While the men patted each other on the back and congratulated themselves, and afore anyone could protest Laethan were off and runnin' again. "Get ready," he yelled out over his shoulder. Ransom started cursin' again as the boy dove through the brush and disappeared. The brigade moved on through the forest, until they reached another clearin'.

There stood Laethan, along with a few other men, heads all turned to the north. Billows of smoke filtered across the sky, toward the horizon where they seemed to be pulled down and out of sight. The brigade searched, but could find no more frostweavers.

Having done what they set out to do, the slingers made their way back to their homes. Eventually, word made it's way back to the Snarfn'tart clan that what they had witnessed at the end of the battle were the magics of the dragon priests puttin' the frostweavers back where they found 'em. The other men and the dragon priests kept fighting for a while longer, but only the occasional straggler entered the forest. As it turns out, that were the last great battle Great Great Granpa Snarfn'tart ever saw.


2002 Taffei Snarfn'tart, a.k.a. Pamela Conard