Kilon scanned the forest ahead with the trained eye of an experienced ranger. Beside him, Filaren did the same, both alert for any signs of danger. They carefully guided the two white stags they rode through the thickly wooded trails of the northern part of Moonleaf Glade. The two elves had been sent ahead of the small party of travelers, led by their prince, to watch for any signs of danger. They were two of the five rangers hand picked for this escort mission by Prince Relanor himself and pride would not allow them to make any mistakes.
Kilon raised his hand and signaled a halt. He was the senior of the two scouts and leadership had defaulted to him, although any of the five rangers selected by the prince were able leaders and could act independently. He turned his head, his long pointed ears sifting through all the sounds of the forest for any that did not belong. A faint noise caught his attention and he looked towards Filaren who shook his head.
All elves had superior hearing, but Kilon was special even among his kind. His fellow rangers joked that he could probably hear clouds bumping into each other. Kilon felt slightly embarrassed by their jesting, but all of his comrades respected his ability and often relied on his use of it. Now his sensitive ears had picked up a mysterious sound in the forest.
Kilon tapped his ear and pointed up into the thick canopy of the forest overhead, then tossed the reins of the white stag he rode to Filaren. Kilon stood up on his saddle, grabbed a low hanging branch and pulled himself up into the lower limbs of one of the giant oak trees common to this area of the forest. Instantly he was flying along the upper levels, leaping and swinging from branch to branch. The rangers of Moonleaf Glade were as agile in the trees as they were on the ground. He was already hundreds of yards away from where Filaren waited.
Kilon stopped to listen again, barely winded by his sprint through the trees. The normal sounds of the forest were gone now, replaced by the noise of bodies crashing through the thick undergrowth of the woods. He sprinted further ahead until the noise was just before him. He cautiously lowered himself onto a low hanging tree limb and crawled into a thick patch of leafy branches. As he settled into position his enchanted elven traveling clothes shifted colors, his body blending in with the surrounding foliage. He carefully pulled up the hood on his cloak to hide his raven black hair.
His green almond shaped eyes searched the tree line ahead for any signs of the intruders. A flash of blue caught his eye and he slowly turned his head. He immediately caught sight of a nooben as it slashed its way through a large thorny bush blocking its path. The blue skinned brute turned and grunted as two more nooben stepped through the opening it had created. Kilon hissed softly through his teeth but maintained his position, he wanted to see how many nooben there were.
The forest around him was soon crawling with the savage creatures, hacking their way through the underbrush, grunting and snorting as they came. There were many more than he expected. Dozens had already passed him and more were still coming. They moved loosely in no real formation and in no hurry. They did not seem to be worried about concealing their movement through the woods. This was not an ordinary raiding party!
A startled grunt sounded directly below the branch he lay on and Kilon looked down to see a nooben staring up at his hiding place. Kilon closed his eyes and concentrated, like many of the wood elves he possessed a small bit of magic. His specialty was that of illusion. A smoky gray squirrel materialized and ran along the branch away from him. The nooben snorted and hurled a stick at the illusionary rodent before shrugging and continuing on its noisy trek through the forest.
Kilon was about to return to the high branches when he spied several nooben carrying a large cage on poles. Within the cage was a giant bat like creature, hissing and screeching as it was carried along. Other larger shapes could be seen moving behind the nooben. This is an invasion force thought Kilon. I’ve got to warn the prince.
He slowly made his way back to the trunk of the tree and up into the comforting shelter of its high branches. Then he was off racing from branch to branch ahead of the shambling nooben. Not one sound of his flight through the branches above reached those who marched below him. He moved like a shadow through the upper reaches of the forest trees until he came to the spot where Filaren waited.
He dropped easily onto the saddle of his mount and accepted the reins back from Filaren.
“It’s nooben,” said Kilon, “and it’s no raiding party. It looks like a full fledged army. I saw giant bat creatures and maybe ogres. You’ve got to warn the prince.”
“We should return together,” said Filaren concern in his bright blue eyes.
“You are the fastest rider,” said Kilon, “you carry our warning to the prince and I’ll follow after. I want to be sure we aren’t followed.”
Filaren nodded his blonde haired head and turned his mount. The stag he rode sprang away weaving quickly through the trees in its path. Stag and rider were soon gone from sight. Kilon followed after the departed elf, pausing frequently to listen to the noise made by the movement of the nooben following after them. There were no sounds of pursuit or the tell tale screeches of nooben horns.
A flash among the trunks of the forest caught Kilon’s attention and he turned. He could see movement through the trees on his left. Part of the nooben force must be advancing ahead of the ones he had already seen. They were much closer to the prince’s approaching party than Kilon had realized. He urged his mount into a full gallop. The nooben army was massive and there would no be going around it. He knew that Filaren would have reached the prince by now. The prince would already have a plan ready. Kilon just had to get to him unobserved by the nooben.
Kilon rode as hard as he could, his stag leaping over fallen logs and dodging low hanging branches. He was breathing heavily as he crouched lower in his saddle, his head turned, listening for any sounds of pursuit. At last Kilon spied the prince’s party waiting for him. They were gathered by a large group of bushes with their mounts huddled close together. The other four elven rangers were already there including Filaren. They turned as he came galloping up to them.
“They are almost here,” said Kilon gasping for air.
Prince Relanor turned towards the human girl, Lady Emily and nodded. She brought forth her magical tome and her staff and began to prepare a spell. Prince Relanor had been warned and a plan was ready. Kilon smiled to himself confident in the leadership of his prince. He drew out his bow as ordered and waited along with the others for the approaching nooben. He would give his life if necessary to protect the prince and those he escorted. He was Kilon, one of the finest of the rangers of Moonleaf Glade.