Chapter one / coincidence
Didn't really expect to see the deer's track crossed by so many sheep's, but the mess of dirt and soil in the ground before me was obvious. Nowhere did I see anything that could be identified as a human footprint, even though I were far gone on unfamiliar territory.
I continued with newly discovered strenght, because after following it this far it would be a personal defeat to give up now. The tracks seemed rather new anyway.
A few broken twigs by the trail witnessed the deer had stayed to eat. The remaining parts were still warm, so I came to the conclusion I must've closed in on it a lot the last part.
A rustling sound of a twig that stretched, broke and swung back again. The brown figure stood in a late summer green coppice, about 70 feet away.
I reached for an arrow and attempted to nock it on the string, which I'd been thoughtful enough to strung before. It's jaws stopped chewing and two big ears tried to locate a sound I must've accidently made. It's eyes were black and bright and surrounded by rough lashes.
Before I'd attempted to release it collapsed, and left me breathless. The other side revealed the end of a rigid arrow with black fletchings -clearly not mine- and I ducked automatically. Was it imagination or had I seen the pupils widen? At a closer look, the other arrow had not only hit it's target, but penetrated with a eerie precision precisely behind the deer's front left leg between two ribbons. The outcome was fatal and quickly, the deer hadn't even realesed what had happened before it was too late.
From afar I heard barking, and two pit bull mixed dogs soon rushed in with wagging tails to examine the prey. They were followed by a small group of three people.
"Look at it!" one of them exclaimed. I evaluated them swiftly: the first was clearly the youngest, about my age, and the others not many years older. Tit-tat-toe. The oldest had a rebellious look which twinged in the eyes, same emission as a trapped wolf. He was the type one would do best to stay away from. Further, he carried a bow over his shoulder, and not much logic was needed to figure out he likely shot the arrow.
The third was between in terms of age, and he appeared calm and sober minded, but not much more.
"It's not that big", the oldest answered. "Not as big as that elk."
"But that was weeks ago, maybe a month." The youngest kneeled down and tried to loose the arrow so it perhaps could be used again when he noticed a change in the dogs' manners and turned around to meet the other's gazes. "I think the dogs grasped something."
I tried to slowly back away, but a broad bole was in the way and there was no chance I could get round it without them perceiving. My heartbeats raced away when I realized what a danger I actually could have put myself into.
"What?" the oldest asked.
"Well... I don't know. How about finding out?" He must've given the dogs a sign, because as if on command, one of them barked and they started sprinting to my direction like spears. A wave of fear welled over and before I'd passed around that tree and thought about what to do next they'd managed to catch up and pinned me to the ground. I tried to sit up but the other growled warningly to wait till it's owner arrived. It was so close I could see the reflection of the saliva between the teeth, and shivered.
"A human..." he said and scratched his head as if it he had expected a bird or something else as harmless. The oldest had alredy nocked a new arrow on the string and the way he stood hunched reminded me of an old fishing technique, a technique I myself've had had to use when the food resources was extra poor. The chance of him missing at this distance was as small it barely existed, especially since I just had witness his skill on the deer.
The edge was so close up I must've looked cockeyed.
"A trespasser", he blurted, "intruder, spy!"
Suddenly the third spoke up for what must have been the first time since.
"In all seriousness, Evan, what on earth makes you think she is a spy?" Evan lowered his bow and scrutinized my tangled hair, wide eyes and soiled rags; worn and washed out till the colors somehow had neutralized to a flurry of lifeless brown and grey shades. Newly covered in a fresh layer of decomposed soil and dirt. His face expression loosened, one bit at a time and turned over to a grimace and he turned around, as if I were not worth to lie in the dirt before him.
I stood up and brushed off the leaves that had gathered on my shoulders.
"Thank you", I adressed the third, embarassed.
"Nothing to talk about." His expression hadn't changed the whole time. "Is it your bow?"
I scanned the ground nearby and when I found it, it was in the hands of Evan. He had picked it up, and he definitely showed an interest in it.
"This is mine now", he stated as a matter of fact. I clenched my fists, but knew better than to argue. And still, it was my favorite bow, made of birch tree and carefully oiled. Was. Now it seemed the only I owned was what I was wearing. I reached down behind my shoulder and realized the arrows hadn't fallen out, nor been confiscated. The wood was hard and the fletching stiff. I hid the ends with the quiver hood.