Derek poked his head out of the sleeping bag. The morning sun had not risen over the mountains. He could see Mara and Old man Dar at the long picnic table. They were setting up the breakfast. The seven children were roughing it out. They had "camped" behind the Old man's cabin; out of sight from all the nearby houses. Derek was definitely hungry but he was also feeling absolutely lazy, before he could decide whether to withdraw or go ahead for breakfast, Mara decided it; walking towards the sleeping kids with a steel plate and a spoon in her hand.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Mara hit the plate with the spoon. Three of the kids were sitting up with hands over their ears and the other three were rubbing their eyes. Mara spoke in her most adult voice.
"Now you have two minutes to wash and brush your teeth. If you are not on time you will miss the beginning of the story. Old Man Dar's going to tell us about Darrian."
Only after all the children had started their breakfast Darry aka "Old man Dar" started speaking.
"Darrian was just like you kids. Strong and active and cocky. He sobered a little when he was sixteen; only after being beaten up though. It was on the Main Street at Maren, in front of a small crowd too."
All the children had stopped eating and were looking at him, some were frowning and others looked surprised.
"What? You wanted to listen about Darrian. He was a right normal fellow. And its not so bad. Go on keep eating." Darry waved at them and filled his cup with strong coffee from the thermos flask before continuing.
"It was market day and he had gone with the wagons. And once the goods were sold he had free time on his hand while the adults made their purchases. Darry had stopped at a street corner and was looking around eating the apple he had carried in his pocket.
He got jostled as a man hurried by leading a woman who obviously did not want to go. Darrian shouted out "Hey watch it man."
The man turned and glared at Darrian. More than six foot tall and built like a barrel he was, but Darrian was still a cocky brat and so he called out. "Don't go pushin' people around for no reason."
The man just swatted at Darrian who was fast enough to throw his apple at the man while he caught the huge hand in both of his. This was a mistake. The man pushed the woman towards the wall and rounded on Darrian. A punch in the gut and a hard slap was all, Darrian was flat on the pavement, lip bleeding and cheek coloring dark red with finger marks.
"You had to mess with Hodder." The lady, a looker-on, admonished, as she helped him sit up. "Who's Hodder?" He asked. The lady told him Ben Hodder was a big lumber miller and the lady he was dragging along was his Sister in law; Sara Maren, soon to be his wife probably. "Poor girl." The lady had murmured before leaving Darrian sitting in the street.
It was two days later that Darrian met Hodder again. This time it was at their camp about five miles outside Maren. Hodder was there along with the Marshall and his two deputies and a couple of other men. They wanted help and were willing to pay for it. Sara had been kidnapped and they had run away towards the Black Mountain, the area where our community was settled and we are still very good trackers. Darrian being one of the better hunters was among the group who was sent to help Hodder.
At the edge of the forest they had divided into four parties of three people each. One led by the Marshall, One each by his deputies and the last by Hodder. Darrian was naturally paired with Hodder and soon enough Darrian found the tracks and naturally he did not inform Hodder. Not only that. When they stopped to rest Darrian left his horse in the clearing where Hodder and his man were sitting sipping at brandy from their hip flasks, and just walked into the forest covering his trail but hurrying on.
In the next two hours Darrian managed to follow the fugitive's tracks, they were on foot and had crossed a stream and climbed up rocky hill. Darrian caught up with them. Sure enough it was Sara and a thin, weak looking old man. Darrian spoke to them of how he had found them and soon Hodder would too. The old man was Hodder's own uncle and he had helped Sara run away coz he had seen her sister suffer and die at Hodder's hands. They had needed to get to the district capital where Sara knew people who would help but the roads out of the county would be watched and they had not managed to steal horses. Tears rolled down Sara's face as she said. "Even with horses it will take a full day to reach the capital. Hodder will never give us that time."
Darrian stayed silent for a few minutes before replying. "I am leaving now. I will lead them away. You make your way towards the west slope and climb down till the large dead oak. I came up that way, there is enough space in the hollow trunk and among the huge roots. Before evening you will hear me come and they will have to leave their horses below. Take them and go. I will delay them as much as I can. Without the horses we will not make it out of here before morning."
Darrian went back and from far away he shouted out when he spotted the men looking for him. "Come Here. Hurry you louts." Both surprised and angry they rushed to follow Darrian and the rest happened as he had planned."
Mara spoke up. "What happened to Sara?"
"Well, it is another story but a happy ending. Sara Maren was the heir to a lot of land. The town was named after them. You know this place right here was gifted to us by Sara Maren, seventy acres no less. So a good turn never goes waste. Now wash your plates and spoons and on with your duties. Fun's over."
After the kids had left Darry aka Old man Dar aka Darrian, sat there giving thanks to whoever was up there watching out for him that day. Hodder had shot him as he had led them up the rocky hill and he would have died, almost did die but for pure luck. Hodder had chased him up the slope and as Darrian scrambled from rock to rock avoiding being shot again; he saw the marshall climbing up the East side with his men in tow . A small ravine blocked his path ahead. Darrian had jumped at the narrowest gap and very luckily managed to hold on to the rocky slope on the opposite side. He had pushed the rocks he could move, down into the ravine and scrambled over the ridge. Another lucky spot was that the bullet had passed through his side just grazing his rib. But that day he had certainly learned his limits.
PICTURE CREDIT: PXHERE.COM