Thornbow stared at the ceiling of his den, willing himself to sink into sleep. The sweat on his face was drying, leaving coolness in its wake. Heavy breathing next to him told him that Quick Fang had already managed to drop off. Her left leg and arm were thrown over him possessively and her head rested on top of his bicep. Their time together had been as vigorous and enthusiastic as it always was when they shared furs, making his limbs heavy with fatigue. His mind, however, was still chewing over a problem, worrying at it like a wolf with a strip of old leather. And now, he had been lying there motionless for long enough that his fingers were beginning to tingle from the weight of his partner's head. He shifted ever so slightly, trying to find a more comfortable spot.
"Why aren't you sleeping?" The white-haired huntress's voice was quiet and gravelly.
He sighed and said, "I've been thinking."
His partner fairly growled at him. "Stop thinking. The daystar is up, so it is time to rest."
A small smile turned up the corners of Thornbow's mouth as he hugged her to him and shifted their positions so that he faced her. "I wish I could sleep so easily, but I keep thinking about the archery training I did today with Tremor."
"You think of him when I am in your furs?!" Quick Fang pushed herself up on her elbow and scowled down at Thornbow.
He frowned. "It is my duty to pass on skills to the younger elves. I take my duties seriously. Since he was a stripling, I've worked with him on form and strength. And in those more than four hands of years since, I have seen flashes of real skill but then it is gone again. He lacks focus, and without it he will never be more than a passable hunter."
"No cousin of mine is going to be a bad hunter! So, teach it to him tomorrow. Let's sleep now."
Thornbow sat up, his brows furrowing. "I'm too riled up to sleep. And I've tried teaching him. Moss and Bowflight... we've all tried! I don't know what else to do."
Quick Fang sat up fully and tucked her legs underneath her. Her eyes glinted with high emotion. "He needs a new teacher, then."
Heat started up the archer's neck and stained his face red. "I am a good teacher!"
"Yes, you are," she said, cupping his face with her small hands. Her lips parted in a predatory smile. "But Tremor needs different... motivation. I'll fix him. Tomorrow." She slid her hands down his cheeks and neck, then down his arms to his hands. Twining her fingers with his, she leaned forward to press herself against his chest. "But, you... I'll fix you tonight."
Thornbow pulled his hands free and wrapped his arms around her, letting her nibble at his neck as he leaned back into the furs. His momentary anger quickly turned to something more pleasant.
"After this, you will sleep," Quick Fang muttered between nibbles.
Tremor stood braced with his bow drawn, carefully eyeing his target. He held his pose, waiting for the moment of release and trying to ignore his white-haired cousin crouching nearby. The target, a fat grey rabbit, hopped another step out from under a small bush. A long strand of grass was slowly disappearing into its mouth as it munched away. Tremor's fingers moved on his bowstring but a small flicker of movement to the right drew his attention and the angle of his bow moved with his gaze. The arrow flew wide of its intended target, skittering into the dry leaves. The rabbit dashed away... another opportunity blown. It had been a night and a good portion of a day full of missed opportunities.
Quick Fang was suddenly in front of him. She grabbed a black dreadlock on either side of his face and pulled him down so that their faces were on the same level.
"Focus!" she practically spat in his face. "We will never eat if you don't pay better attention!"
'Maybe this trip was a bad idea,' Tremor thought as she stomped away. 'A hand of days out here with only with her as a teacher, without even our wolves, may kill us both.'
The younger elf ran to retrieve his arrow and then caught up with his cousin as she was examining some old tracks nearby. She gave him a stern look and silently set out. As he followed, Tremor examined his arrow and then stuck it back in his hip quiver. It was still good enough to use.
They continued on trail of a slaptail for what seemed like an oak's age. When they finally reached a meadow bordered by a stream that the slaptail called home, Quick Fang motioned for Tremor to ready himself to take it down. It was a peaceful spot. The stream was deep and slow moving and ended in a small lake on the other side of the meadow. There were few distractions.
Again, he slipped the bow from his shoulder and pulled out an arrow. He watched the slaptail for a moment to make sure it hadn't noticed them and then he drew back on his bow, paying careful attention to his form. His stance had always gotten praise from other teachers, but Quick Fang was too intent on the prey to notice such things.
**Don't look away,** she sent to him, along with the sensations of belly-griping hunger.
His own stomach grumbled in response. He didn't notice the quick grin the white-haired elf shot him. She knew hunger was a great teacher and motivator. Surely, he would make the shot with their only chance at a meal riding on his shoulders.
He aimed carefully, never blinking. But a sudden splashing and loud honking at the lake startled both him and the slaptail. It slipped into the stream and was beneath the surface quickly, safely out of the reach of his arrows.
Quick Fang growled in frustration at another meal lost. She could have pursued the prey and killed it with her spear but the point was for Tremor to manage his reactions and shoot consistently with his bow. She glared over at the small group of geese swimming blithely in the lake. She growled again.
Suddenly, she grabbed Tremor's arm and marched him over to a fallen tree. She shoved him in front of it, facing the lake, and climbed on top of the log so she could see over his shoulder. **Shoot them!**
His blue eyes widened. **But they are so far away. I've never hit anything that far.**
**Can you see them?** she asked.
She leaned down and hissed in his ear, "Then shoot them!"
Tremor gulped and drew back on his bow. He pulled on the string hard. So hard that his arms shook with the effort. He aimed for the big male in the front and waited for the right moment.
Tremor heard her lips part and her teeth clench right behind his ear. A vision of Notch's notch came to his mind. He wanted to keep his ear intact. A bead of sweat trickled down from his brow. He ignored it and kept his eyes on the birds even though he wanted to roll them to the side to watch his cousin. He stared at the goose until he could make out its black eyes against the black of its head feathers.
Then the world seemed to fall away. Everything slowed down and faded away until there was just him and the bird in the world. Silence surrounded him. The distance seemed to shrink as he felt the arrow-shaft leave his string. He didn't even see its path until it struck home and feathers flew up in the air.
The other geese started to flap their wings in slow, silent flight. **Again,** Quick Fang sent. **Before they all get away.**
Impossibly, another arrow was already in his hand and ready to fly. Time still had not resumed its usual march so there was plenty of time to aim and shoot before the birds escaped. A second bird fell to the water, pierced by his arrow.
He tried for a third but his arm muscles were quivering too much to pull the string back enough for the distance. The world rushed back at him as he shakily lowered his bow.
Quick Fang, howling with excitement, was already rushing across the meadow to retrieve the geese before they completely sank beneath the water's surface. Tremor sank down to sit on the log. His arms felt so weak.
A short time later, his white-haired cousin was beside him again, arms full of limp geese. She dropped them on the ground and grinned at him. She reached out and clasped his shoulders, feeling the muscles twitching beneath his skin. "Good job! I knew a griping belly would make you try harder."
Tremor smiled back. "It wasn't my belly... it was your teeth!"
Quick Fang laughed and poked him in the ribs. "So remember that and pay attention or I really will bite you." She glanced back at the lake and whistled. "That was longer shot than I thought."
Tremor shrugged and scooted himself to the ground so he could start de-feathering a goose. The huntress watched him for a moment with her head cocked. "Longshot," she finally said. "That sounds right."
The archer looked up, surprise widening his eyes. After a moment he said, "I like that... Longshot."