The other two archers watched with anticipation as Longshot took careful aim, blue eyes narrowed to a cerulean squint. A green-feathered shaft drew back, almost touching one of the angular planes of his face, then was held motionless as he measured his distant target. A slight breeze brushed past his face, stirring at his black hair. Longshot compensated against that breath of wind, and when he was satisfied, he let the arrow fly.
“Did he hit it?” Moss asked, straining to see the scrap of squirrel-tail they’d stuck to a birch tree with a daub of sticky-sap.
“Can’t tell. Can hardly see the blasted thing,” Cloudfern replied grudgingly. “Should have used a foxtail – at least a bit more color would’ve stood out.”
“I can see it,” Longshot replied, his voice rich with satisfaction. “And once again – I hit it center-square. That’s another wager won.”
Moss and Cloudfern both groaned. “Shards. I swear – if Longshot can see it, he can hit it,” Cloudfern muttered.
“He’s got to miss. At least one in a hundred. No one can shoot so good as that. Not even my son.” Moss said stubbornly.
“I’ve only half a dozen arrows left in my quiver, but I’ll keep shooting if you insist,” Longshot grinned, losing his battle against sounding smug.
“I want to see you hit it again,” Moss said.
“You’ve got it,” Longshot replied. He drew another green-fletched arrow and took careful aim. Moss and Cloudfern both squinted, and their sour expressions didn’t change when they saw the result.
“Don’t tell me he hit it again,” Moss grumbled.
“He did. I can see just the barest bit of green next to the other.”
“Can you see both of those arrows?” Moss asked, giving Longshot a wry look.
“Then I want to see you hit them both. You might be my cub, but I don’t think you can do that again.”
Longshot smiled at his hunting companions, then quickly drew two arrows, one after the other, and sent them effortlessly off at their targets. His smile only grew. “There you go. Both of them split down the middle. So maybe I inherited it all from mother?”
Moss snorted at his son’s teasing and tried to hide a smile, while Cloudfern gave a low whistle of grudging respect.
“I won’t admit to being thoroughly beaten in this contest.” Moss said stubbornly. “Not by my own son! Look over in that tree. Over there, the one with the fingermoss. There’s a nightingale there, among those leaves. Can you hit that?”
Longshot gave a small laugh, as if the request were a joke. A heartbeat later, the bird fell out of the tree, an arrow through its breast.
“I’m still not admitting defeat,” Moss sniffed. “There’s a bat that just went winging past over my--”
Longshot nocked an arrow and took a snap shot, and a few yards away, a tiny dark figure tumbled out of the air, hardly larger than the arrowhead that pierced it.
“Show off,” Cloudfern said dryly.
“I refuse to be impressed. Refuse it absolutely,” Moss said. “What’s that moving over there, on the other side of that meadow? Bet you can’t hit that.”
“You don’t want to hit that, that’s a--” Cloudfern began to say urgently.
Too late. Longshot’s green-fletched arrow was already winging its way through the air. There was a meaty sound of impact, echoed by a piggish squeal of outrage.
“—great big old boar,” Cloudfern finished. He took an anxious step backwards.
“Right in the kisser!” Moss finally laughed in admiration, as the boar staggered out into the clearing, squealing shrilly and shaking its head as if wasp-stung. “You hit it center in the nose! Right dead center! What a shot!”
“You only wounded it. Might have killed it if you’d hit it between the eyes. But you just hit it between the snout holes,” Cloudfern said, taking another worried step back.
“All I saw was that little pink circle of a nose, poking out of the brush,” Longshot said smugly. “And just like you say, Cloudy -- if I can see it, I can hit it.”
“Listen to that fat old boar squeal!” Moss grinned. “Good thing it’s too dim-sighted to see us.”
“Too bad the wind is at our backs,” Cloudfern countered, with another anxious step backwards.
Moss and Longshot gave each other a sudden, worried glance. Then the tenor of the boar’s shrill cries changed, going from shrieking swinish protest to sheer ear-splitting fury. The creature charged toward the three elves, head down and tusks curving wickedly forward.
Cloudfern bolted, racing for the stout oak along the riverbank behind them. Moss took several steps after him. “You see that pig coming?” he called to Longshot. “You can see it, right? So shoot it!”
Longshot stood his ground confidently, and reached after his quiver…
… his very empty quiver. Longshot realized with horror that he had spent all of his arrows making trick shots, and the last of them was fast returning, as the furious boar streaked toward him with murder in its piggy little eyes.
“Run!” shouted Moss and Cloudfern in unison.
Longshot made it into the protection of the oak’s branches. But only barely; the fletching of his own arrow tore across the sole of his boots as he leapt for safety and was hauled up onto the branch where Cloudfern and Moss had taken shelter. The three crouched together, panting for breath, as the infuriated boar tore at the treetrunk just below them.
“You sure inherited something from me,” Moss grinned, patting something his son’s shoulder.
“Nice shot,” Cloudfern smirked, giving Longshot an elbow in the ribs. “A very nice shot.”