Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Huntress

Across rivers and mountains, through lush forests and dusty plains, miles away from anywhere; a girl, almost a woman, crouches silently amongst the strong branches of a tree almost as old as the earth itself. She is watching, waiting, hardly breathing. Her longbow is drawn, arrow notched and ready to fly. Her keen eyes pick out the smallest details on the forest floor below her, searching for the slightest sign of movement, hopeful that at any moment the creature she is hunting will move out from beneath the branches and into her sight. The elk she has been tracking is huge, a great hulking beast, and she has been following it all morning, waiting patiently for just the right moment. If she can kill this creature it will feed her family for at least a week. Times have been hard lately, she knows she needs to make this kill.
The hours of waiting have left her body stiff and achy, she longs to stretch, to brush away the tingles on her skin left by the many forest insects, to move the stray strand of dark brown hair away from the corner of her eye. But she holds still, knowing that the slightest movement could send the great elk dashing away into the depths of the forest, ruining her chance of a good catch and wasting the mornings efforts.
From outside the tree she is barely visible, spots of brown hair and pink skin showing faintly through the gaps between the thick green leaves, her small frame bent and hunched against the great tree trunk. Even her breathing is measured, slow and steady. Years of experience have made her an expert in her art.
The girl glances up into the puzzle pieces of sky she can see through the branches and leaves above her, the sun has moved since she last looked and she estimates she has only a few more hours of sunlight left. After dark she will not be able to hunt, the great elk will be almost impossible to see between the plants and bushes that litter the forest floor. Besides, she knows she must get home before dark, the forest is dangerous at night and only a fool would risk the long walk home alone at that time. She wonders at the possibility of catching a couple of fish in the river on her way back but knows that will not be enough.
As her mind begins to wander a movement below her followed swiftly by the soft snapping of a twig catches her attention, and the moment she has been waiting for finally arrives. She tightens her grip on her bow and leans forward slightly, angling her taught body towards the offending bush. Several moments pass slowly before the great elk stalks leisurely out and into her field of range. She holds her breath and closes one eye, focusing all her attention on the great beast below her. He bends his huge antlered head and her moment has arrived. With a soft swoosh she releases the arrow and watches as it sails through the air, coming to a stop buried deep in the elks neck. The animal rears back in surprise before dropping to the floor and the girl feels relief flood her body. Carefully she makes her way down the trunk of the tree and scampers across the forest floor to where the animal lays dying. Softly she closes it's frightened eyes and whispers in it's ear as she pulls the arrow out of it's thick neck. Hot elks blood cascades over her small hand and as she whispers thanks to the great beast she can feel it's body release as it takes it's final breath and dies.

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