Orledin’s Ranger Log

(( This is last week’s weekly prompt for writing a creepy story. I don’t think I’m particularly good at creepy stories, but I did try. It was written last week, but it was on paper in one of my notebooks. I’ve only now had the time to finally type it up. I worked in a second weekly prompt from another source this week, write something in first-person. I think the two prompts worked well together! ))

I usually don’t write in my ranger log. Ordinarily, nothing significant happens while on patrol so there’s not much to write about. I suppose there are some things worth mentioning about last night.

Patrol started as usual. Sorrowmoss and I decided to cover the southern route as we had covered the northwest and the northeast routes on the previous two nights. We usually patrol the southern route every other day. It needs more attention as there are still random Scourge wandering about, and most of them are in the southwestern areas. I guess it was out of the unusual that we patrolled the northern routes two nights in a row, but one of the day patrols had reported some possibly rabid bats along the northeast route. While they had taken care of the two they had seen, we were asked to pass by the same route that night, and check for them. Bats are nocturnal, so even rabid, it would be more likely to see them at night. We saw nothing, and the day patrols after us reported no further bat activity. So we decided tonight to go on the south route.

As usual, Sorrowmoss led in silence as I followed behind. Sometimes I try to talk to her, but I think it usually ends with just me talking, and probably saying too much. She knows way more about me than she needs to know. I’m sure of that.

So it was, I had started talking and was running my mouth about Pancat’s latest antics, baking, how cute Julan is, how much of a slut Julan is, how Aeramin’s boyfriend is mistreating him by seeing Kavia, how jealous I am, how much I miss being alive, how much I miss a lot of things, etc., and definitely not paying attention to where I was going. Well, I wasn’t paying attention until I almost knocked her over. She had stopped right in front of me, and I hadn’t noticed. The look she gave me made me almost glad I’m undead because I’m pretty sure she would have killed me otherwise. She might have tried anyway if she hadn’t already been thinking about something else. She put one finger up in front of her mouth, telling me to be quiet without saying a thing. She looked off into the forest. I strained to hear anything, but there were only regular night noises. I couldn’t see anything either.

We stood that way, silent and unmoving, for at least five minutes. It felt like an eternity. I keep listening and watching, though I didn’t know what for. I dared not move or talk until Sorrowmoss did.

At last, she finally moved. Slowly, she readied her bow and took a step forward. When an undead ranger moves slowly, it’s so slow, you begin to question whether she moved or not at all. At some point, I was definitely aware that her bow wasn’t in the same place it had been a minute before. I still didn’t see anything, so I decided it was best if I stayed put. I continued standing silently in the same place as she slowly took a step forward.

I stared off towards the section of the forest that she was slowly creeping towards, still unable to see or hear whatever it was that caused her to stop in the first place. I was beginning to think that perhaps she was messing with me, when she bolted off into the woods.

I struggled to keep up. I don’t know how she can move so quickly, but I kept getting my hair caught on twigs, and the underbrush was too thick in some places so I had to find a way around. Whatever she was after, she seemed to remember that I was there, and that I’m her patrol partner, and that we’re not supposed to split up. I saw her waiting for me a couple times, making sure I saw her before she left in another direction.

I was about to beg her to stop the next time I caught sight of her, but when I did she stood in one place with her finger up to her mouth again. Did she know I was about to yell? Maybe she was playing some sort of trick on me after all. Was she fed up with all my talking on patrol? She didn’t say. I didn’t ask. I did catch up to her though, and then we were back to moving slowly until we came into a clearing.

She stopped, so I did too. There was a man in the middle of the clearing. Though it was dark, there was enough moonlight to tell that he looked to be undead. Sorrowmoss was the first to call out, her bow ready in her hand. “Hello! We are rangers. What is your business in this section of the woods?” It was protocol when dealing with any possible Scourge, and an important question when dealing with any undead. The Scourge still wandered, but there were undead in the area too. Undead who were more like Sorrowmoss and myself, who weren’t under Scourge control anymore. We always had to make sure we were not killing a Ghostland’s citizen, though usually, it was pretty obvious.

No answer came. That was the usual sign that they didn’t have their mind. Sorrowmoss exchanged a glance with me, and started to raise her bow, but I thought it was better to investigate further. I wasn’t sure why. I quickly rationalized that he could be deaf, so I stepped out closer. Sorrowmoss lowered her bow a bit as I began to towards the figure.

She will say I wasn’t being very cautious, but I was. Each step, I knew I was getting closer, and I was calculating the distance from the middle of the clearing to the forest edge. I was very aware of how closely behind Sorrowmoss was, or in this instance, wasn’t. She had moved only a few feet further in and stood there with her bow ready. I trust her aim so I walked up to the figure and stood about five feet away.

That was when I recognized him. His long dark hair had mostly fallen away and his bare skull showed in places with his scalp only held by thin grotesque strips of skin. His once long ears were now no more than tattered nubs. His lifeless sockets glowed yellow, and rotted skin hung from his face. His bare teeth showed, a dull, rusted metal jaw reinforced what was left of his own. Even most of his clothing had rotted away, and he would have been unrecognizable except for one feature. His cloak clasp still held the tattered remains of a cloak he had been buried in. It was gold with sapphires that used to match the blue in his eyes, and sparkled just the same as well. Dirt was caked in the clasp now, but there was no mistaking it. I looked closer at the undead. The recognition stopped there. His hair might have been the same, but then many people had black hair. Perhaps he had stolen the clasp.

But then he spoke, “Orledin.”

I stepped back, unsure if I wanted to acknowledge his recognition.

His head flopped to the side as he stepped towards me. “Orledin.”

An arrow zipped through the clearing and into the undead’s throat, hitting it’s mark and severing the spinal cord, or what was left of it. I took another step back as his head toppled off his shoulders, having lost the only thing that was left holding it in place. The body continued to stand for a few seconds later, until it too crumbled to the ground.

I stood staring at what was left, unaware that Sorrowmoss had made her way to me until she spoke.

“What were you thinking? It was either Scourge or had completely succumbed to brain rot. Neither one should be approached like that.”

“You killed him.” I said, still a bit stunned as I knelt to look for the cloak clasp in the remains.

“You’re lucky I did. He was too close to you. Or he’s lucky I did if he was suffering brain rot.”

I found the clasp and squeezed it in my hand. “I’m sorry.” I was saying it to him. Sorrowmoss thought I meant it for her. I didn’t correct her.

“You’re forgiven. Let’s go on the rest of the patrol. I have no desire to stand out here while you play bone collector.”

“I’m not— “ I didn’t finish the sentence as it would be useless to argue with her. I stood, putting the clasp in my cloak pocket. As I let it go, I heard my name said again.

Orledin.

I looked down at the body, but it hadn’t moved. I looked at Sorrowmoss, who was already on her way to leave the clearing. “Did you hear that?”

“I only hear the wind. Let’s get back on the path so we can finish patrol before dawn.”

I trusted she was right, but as I left the clearing, I heard it again, though fainter this time.

Orledin.

I turned back for one last glance at the crumpled body. It hadn’t moved. I turned back around and rushed to catch up with Sorrowmoss.

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