(This story was an entry for Clue #4 in the 2013 Treasure Hunt -- see the collection for related stories and images! It is also an entry in the 2013 Family Time Contest -- see that collection for more contest stories and images!)
The arrow’s song was cut short by a satisfying thunk as it struck the willow tree at the other end of Broad Meadow. Windsong smiled to herself, pleased that her shot had found the mark once again. Three of her arrows bit into the tree where they had passed through the willow-branch hoop Evervale had woven together earlier that evening. Her victory in the night’s contest seemed well in hand.
Evervale clapped eagerly, delighted by her mother’s success. She was always a little awed by Windsong’s skill as a huntress, and proud to be her daughter. And also grateful to be on her team! They were competing in parent-child pairs at the moment, her and Windsong, Starskimmer and Beetle, and Greenweave and Newt.
Greenweave whistled appreciatively while Newt seemed torn between being impressed and feeling worse about his own lack of skill. Starskimmer pursed her lips thoughtfully, an expression unwittingly mirrored by her daughter Beetle.
“Well, looks like I have some catching up to do,” the rockshaper said as she strode into position and raised her bow. She knocked an arrow and took her time acquiring the target. The hoop was a good thirty wolf-lengths away and less than an arm span in diameter. It was a challenge, but not beyond her ability. Something Starskimmer liked to remind her tribemates every now and then.
She steadied her breathing, waiting for that perfect pause between breaths to let fly her arrow. It released with a whistle, streaking through the hoop target and landing with its own wooden thunk.
“Oh-ho, mother! Look! You’ve knocked one of the other’s off the tree!” Beetle exclaimed happily.
“Heh, but which one?” Starskimmer countered.
“I’ll go check,” Greenweave offered, merrily trotting through the summer grass to get a better look. Within a few moments he held up the disqualified arrow. The dark crow’s feather fletching marked it as one of Starskimmer’s own.
“Oh puckernuts and squirrel dung!” Starskimmer hissed in dismay while Windsong let loose a bark of laughter. Beetle’s face fell a bit, but she consoled herself in that at least her team hadn’t technically missed this round.
Newt approached the fuming rockshaper and laid a gentle hand on her arm. Starkimmer stopped her string of mumbled profanities to look down at the white-haired elf with his shining red-blue eyes.
“Don’t curse so, Starskimmer, at least you hit your mark!” he said cheerily, giving her his best winning smile. Starskimmer felt her maternal heart melt a little under his sweet gaze and she reached out to give him an affectionate side-hug, which he leaned into easily.
“Twice, in fact!” Greenweave chimed in as he trotted back to the gaggle of archers wearing a big teasing grin.
The other’s nodded and muttered in agreement and Starskimmer had to admit they were right. There was something to be said for being consistent! She may not win this time, but there was no debate as to her skill as an archer.