Learning to Loose the Arrow   2509.09.10*  
Written By: Matt Di Carlo
(2011 May/June Fic Trade) Cinder's attempts at archery gain him an unexpected new teacher.
Posted: 09/09/11      [8 Comments]

Steady... steady...

The bowstring thrummed loudly as Cinder released it, sending the arrow his small practice bow bore hurtling towards the fat, well-worn tree stump at the opposite end of the clearing. Unfortunately for the cub, its arc began its descent prematurely and came to fall well short of his intended target, embedding itself shallowly into the grass beneath it.

Cinder sighed in disappointment as he lowered his bow and began the trek forward to retrieve his arrow, moving past his wolf-friend Longhowl, who seemed content to lie on his stomach watching the cub practice. It wasn't bad, being one of his first attempts at handling a bow, and it was true that he wasn't completely prepared for the heft of the blunted arrows the cubs were allowed to practice with, but failing to hit a target wasn't something he was used to. Despite his youth, he was more proficient with his sling than one would expect, able to mark a fairly high percentage of targets that came within his immediate vicinity. Going from that to coming nowhere near hitting a target as broad as a tree stump was something of a frustration, especially considering he was using a lighter practice bow that, to him, felt not much heavier than his sling. But it was a challenge that he welcomed.

He bent to pick up the projectile, noting the scent that wafted to his nostrils from above that was unmistakably that of his agemate Copper. He looked upward as he returned to his previous position, seeing the elf hanging by her legs from a strong overhead branch, her red-gold hair dangling freely in the air.

“Want to come play?” he asked, stopping short at the mark he had made in the ground. The girl didn't respond, instead keeping her eyes trained intently on her friend. Cinder shrugged slightly to himself and brought the arrow to his bowstring once more, trying to mimic how he had seen some of the older hunters do it, drawing his arm towards his face. His arm shook with the effort required to keep the coarse fiber taut. He licked his lips, closing one eye in his attempt to focus in on the target. It was somewhat illogical to think he would be instantly proficient; the first step is simply to hit the target, which was something Cinder had yet to accomplish. Would it have been any different were it a different cub? At so young an age, the answer is probably not. All young creatures, elves or otherwise, think themselves instantly able to do just about anything.

The faint sound of Longhowl's stomach rumbling was enough of a distraction to cause his fingers to momentarily loosen, sending the arrow off to the side with nary the strength of a pebble thrown underhandedly. Cinder grumbled and trudged forward once more, feeling the frustration begin to bubble up inside. There was no reason to be frightened with Longhowl there with him; though the wolf was still young, he had an absolute trust in his wolf-friend to protect him from any stray animals that might accidentally burst into the clearing, and he was easily within sending distance of the main concentration of adults.

As much as he was keen to keep at it to get better, Cinder was growing a bit bored of his repeated failures. He resolved to give it one more attempt before moving on to something a bit more fun. Once more he stood at the mark rubbed into the ground. He nocked his arrow, let out a breath and brought the bow up. Pulling back the string, he felt his arm begin to quake with the effort of keeping it taut just like every other attempt. He was doing his best to keep it level with his eyes, but he couldn't seem to keep it from moving.

**Stop trying. Just shoot.**

Knowing that Copper was there was enough to keep Cinder from being surprised by her send, though he wasn't sure what the use of that was. He had to do everything right or there was no way it would hit the target. If he stopped trying, how could he do everything right? It seemed like a foreign notion to him to not put any thought into it. But who was he to argue? He hadn't been having much success thus far, and despite being near the same age, Copper had spent more time watching the hunters target shooting. Between that and her interest in archery as a hobby — while his interest was more skewed toward his sling, one of his prized possessions — the division in skill between the cubs was easily apparent.

Deciding to take his agemate's advice, he let go of all of the contradictory thoughts and let instinct take over. It was a different feeling than what he was used to. When using his sling, Cinder always seemed to experience the world at a hyperfast pace, but this seemed to be just the opposite. He wasn't used to not following any instructions, the way he would when receiving lessons in other things from his father. It seemed strange... but it also made it seem more fun. He felt the coarseness of the bow string against his fingertips, felt it scratch against his cheek as he drew it back to his ear as he lined up the shot. It felt like a trance, like the bow was guiding him as he loosened his grip on the string ever so slightly. The projectile hurtled forward a fluid motion and flew swiftly, striking the aging stump with a solid thunk. Cinder's eyes widened at the sight of his success. Huh.

**How did you do that?**

**Do what?**

**Learn that, about shooting.**

Before answering Copper allowed herself to fall, landing nimbly on her feet. She replied while walking over to him: **Practice, mostly. Watching others.**

**No wonder you know so much.**

**I just know what I see from the hunters. The arrow goes where it wants. Just point it where you want it.**

Cinder took another arrow from his satchel and repeated the process, this time embedding the arrow deeper than the previous attempt. He looked over to Copper, whose lips bore the faintest hint of a smile, and returned the smile in his own cheeky way. If practice made perfect, there was something to be said for having a good teacher too.

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