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Old January 2, 2019, 01:52 PM   #1
Moss Oktra'rek
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[Loremark Forest] Stay On Target

Era XXVI - Winter - Ponutis

There was a light snowfall that morning, an unusual sight for a forest that usually resorted to merely shedding itself of leaves for the duration of the coldest season of the Era. But there were tiny flecks of white descending upon it, drifting ever so slowly through skeletal trees, catching the sunslight and glinting like tiny diamonds before disappearing into the undergrowth, where the slowly increasing warmth of the brightening would melt them into a forgotten memory.

A brisk wind clawed its way through the trees, whistling between naked branches, cool air wafting in from the Gulf of Ioannolia and penetrating portions of the Loremark Forest before the mass of trunks ultimately dispersed it.

Amidst the stillness of the dawn, however, there was life. The sunslight had barely touched eastern sides of the trees before the Loremark awoke, and the creatures within it did likewise. Cautious and furtive steps were taken below the birdsong that greeted the earliest candlemarks of the brightening.

With no foliage to hide them, the occasional animal could be seen: foxes, deer, and wolves could all be sighted in different parts of the large forest, as well as the smaller footsteps of squirrels and shrews. Only the bears of Loremark remained hidden, sheltered in their dens until the warmer seasons would ease them out of their long slumber.

A new brightening had dawned.
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Old January 3, 2019, 09:27 PM   #2
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Nearby, sitting undetected by the waking woodland creatures, a crouching figure in the tussock tufts slowly pulled up a green tunic collar to cover an icy breath which would have otherwise disturbed the serenity of the wood.

Astra Miawynn had been there since before suns up and blended into the bare forest well enough. Her dark brunette hair was long and wild, all but one braid cascading down her right side. It was secured with twine and had a few grey griffon feathers tied in amongst it. Her pointy ears and pale skin were evidence of her half-elven heritage. Her penetrating eyes were most peculiar, a deep evergreen hue with glints of blue that changed with the weather, which made her connection with nature more personal. On her neck and face one would have to look very closely indeed to make out the faded blue and grey ink ceremonial markings from eras before.

She wore a muddied woollen forest green tunic which had seen many a mend. Her simple brown leather armour and black boots protected her somewhat from the elements but allowed her to move in the forest stealthily. And stealth she would need especially that brightening.

For that brightening she would try her hand at the short bow. Her traps had been unsuccessful that winter, and with a dwindling food supply she wasn't going to wait for starvation to take its hold like it had many winters before.

She had stumbled upon the broken stringed short bow earlier in the summer months. It was beautifully crafted. Most short bows were put together quickly without care...but this one was very unique indeed. It had no knots and a pattern of intertwined vines and a few birds delicately and meticulously carved into the wooden bow. If one looked close enough, they could see it had been dyed blue at some point in the past but now only the carved bits of wood contained remnants of the colour.

When she stumbled upon the bow she left it there for the owner to reclaim it. She watched and checked every brightening until the darkening of the full moon. Alas, no one had claimed it so she decided to steward the prized possession herself.

She restrung the bow and fashioned a few arrows from nearby rocks and sticks and used only feathers for the fletchings. A few weeks ago she happened across a trader with a simple leather quiver in her possession. Astra observed the woman's desperation of thrist and offered to fill her small costrel with her own homemade honey-wine in exchange for the quiver. The thirsty woman couldn't resist such a trade as she had been dry for many restless darkenings and needed the liquid aid to find some solace from her woes. Since finding the bow Astra had practiced every now and then with large still targets and had been pretty successful, but it was time to put her skills to the test.

The previous brightening, Astra had tied four small frog sized wooden targets to tree branches with vines. Doing nothing by halves, she added to the challenge by securing them in a way so they also moved with the wind. With only five arrows in her quiver, Astra loaded the first. She slowed her breath and heartbeat and concentrated on the target closest to her. She inhaled slowly as she raised the bow. Then with held breath she pulled back the string and fired her first arrow.
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Old January 4, 2019, 04:24 PM   #3
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The wind could be a fickle mistress when it chose to be. Unpredictable by its very nature, its movements could shift without notice, before twisting back upon itself in the same instance. As swift and evasive as animals could be, at least a hunter could see which way their quarry was facing and predict where it might move next. The blustery winter weather offered no such forecasting solace.

All of which meant that the targets that Astra had made, already small and eager to twist with the dangling vines, would prove a much steeper challenge than the large, stationary marks she had already practiced with.

At least she wouldn't need to rely on stealth to prevent them from scurrying into the underbrush at the first sign of movement.

Pulling the string back would require some strength, and the half-elfess' shoulder and back likely already knew how to complain when she'd loosed more arrows than she was used to. But again, with practice, such hindrances would become less prevalent.

With her first arrow nocked, and the nearest target receiving all of her attention, the wind in the forest suddenly died away for a moment, as if the gods themselves were holding their breaths in anticipation. That meant the target steadied just as the would be archer loosed her missile, and the feathers caught the cold winter air as it flew straight with such speed that it not only hit the target but split it in two, before the shaft ricocheted off into the frosty undergrowth nearby.

Had she mastered the archery already? Or was it simply a case of beginner's good fortune?
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Old January 8, 2019, 01:27 AM   #4
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Astra with bow in hand quietly got up from her position and walked over to her target. As she admired the splintered wood, she concluded that luck was indeed on her side and perhaps accuracy was not the only skill she needed to practice today. She walked a few more paces, retrieved her arrow and returned to her original position.

Astra settled back down in the tussock and decided she would attack the remaining three targets with speed. But first, she needed to bring her heartbeat and breathing into a calm and united rhythm. She took out a new arrow and stared at the arrowhead for a few minutes. Once her body and breathing had stilled, Astra nocked the arrow whilst still crouched in the tussock. As she stood, Astra inhaled, drew back the bow and held her breath.

In a matter of seconds she had fired at the second target and as soon as the arrow was in flight, Astra turned to the next, reached for her quiver and retrieved another arrow. She fired and before she could even think, her instincts took over. Whilst turning to focus on the fourth and final target, her right hand reached for the quiver on her back, retrieved the arrow, nocked it and drew back the bow in one fluid motion. She had the fourth target in sight for just a second before releasing the loaded bow.
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Old January 8, 2019, 06:29 AM   #5
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The damage done to the first target, with the wooden mark having split in two, rendered it unusable without undergoing major repairs. A shortbow, while lacking the impact of its larger cousin, was still a very powerful weapon, capable of hitting an object - or a creature - from a good distance. That was, of course, assuming its user had enough skill to use it in such a manner.

Astra's first arrow was found easily enough, the arrowhead having bitten into the soft earth, the shaft splintered as it sat against a rock in the undergrowth. Like the target, the missile's usefulness had departed, unless the half-elfess chose to hold onto it as a keepsake.

When it came to firing the three arrows at speed, the brunette's efforts provided mixed results.

The first, having been lined up, and with time taken to aim, flew true, the sharp tip of the stone arrowhead burying itself into the target with a satisfying thud, causing the vine that held it to spin, the fletching occasionally catching the weak winter sunslight as it rotated.

The second, hastily loosed, took to the air. Though the trajectory initially seemed to be correct, the shaft veered away, missing the target by a fair margin and flying out of sight between two trees.

The third arrow, with that extra moment of caution taken before it was sent on its way, flew better, but not well enough for a clean hit. It clipped the edge of the target before spinning wildly and falling straight to the frosted ground.

By then, Astra's cold fingertips were beginning to sting - something that would become less of a problem once calluses formed - and a solitary arrow remained in her quiver.
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Old January 9, 2019, 01:19 AM   #6
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Astra quickly caught her breath and briefly paused to inspect the targets she had attempted to strike. She was mildly disappointed for the one she missed completely, but as she walked to retrieve her arrows, she let out a small chuckle as she once again found herself trying to hastily attain a new skillset.

"In time, Astra, all in good time" she recalled her Father's reassuring words. As a child she had always tried to be the best at one skill or another. Running, braiding, learning to paint or carve to name a few. Astra always wanted her abilities to compare or overtake those of her parents and siblings. But more often than not, her endeavours ended in quick lessons of humility and patience.

Astra let out a small sigh of acceptance. Just like everything else, progress would be slow and steady.

She retrieved all but one arrow and whilst rubbing her reddening fingers and to avoid any tearing, she decided to head home. As Astra made her way through the familiar woods, and noting it was not long since brightening, she decided to check her snare traps along the way. Due to the lack of success this winter, she had zero expectations that anything would be there.
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Old January 9, 2019, 04:01 AM   #7
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The brightening had begun with four targets and five arrows, and by the time Astra left her homemade archery range, they each numbered one less.

All the same, she had managed to get a small bit of practice in, and her ability with the bow would only improve the more she repeated the process. Eventually, if she became skilled enough, the brunette would be able to hit targets without even having to keep her eye down the nocked arrow - she would simply be able to eye her quarry and let loose, relying on muscle memory to guide each shaft towards its mark.

The homeward walk was silent but for the woman's steps through the undergrowth. If there were any animals nearby, they had made themselves scarce, so as to not have the hunter's ire brought upon them. After a while, a breeze picked up, and robbed the forest of its eerie silence.

As for the traps? Astra's fears were realised, with none of them having captured any animals, and yet the bait had vanished from one, and the trap sprung!

Unless the snares provided her with more success in the near future, or she happened upon food in some unexpected manner, it seemed she would need to keep practicing her archery.
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Old January 25, 2019, 05:57 PM   #8
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Astra was surprised to see her trap had been set off but was disappointed with the lack of reward. Food was scarce in the middle of winter not only for her but the animals in the wood as well. Astra looked around for clues of what had set off the snare.

She had strategically placed the trap near a shrub that had a few buds not yet eaten by desperate scavengers. Seeing the shrub still had a few more days worth of scavenging potential, Astra dutifully reset the trap closer to the shrub this time and picked a few of the best buds and placed them leading up to and after the trap hopefully making the trap more tempting for the elusive creature.

A few brightenings later, with her fingers now healed and bound with some cloth, Astra took her four original arrows as well as six more she had made and headed back to her practice spot to try shooting with the bow once more.

Using charcoal, Astra marked five of the surrounding trees with a large 'X' and decided to test her aim from further away.

Once Astra walked thirty yards from the target area she pulled a few of the loose tussock leaves to test the strength and direction of the wind. She nocked her first arrow, took a deep breath and fired the arrow. Then one by one she nocked, breathed and fired until 5 arrows had left her bow and each tree had been aimed for
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Old January 26, 2019, 04:57 AM   #9
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Astra was able to replenish the bait in the trap with ease, and a little bit of investigation revealed some ruts in the dirt nearby. The tracks were not clear, with the overdarkening winter snow largely covering them, but it was clear that whatever creature had disturbed the area was too big for such a trap to capture. If anything, it was fortunate that the beast had managed to extract the bait without damaging the trap itself.

Astra's fingertips - and her arrow supplies - had recovered a few brightenings later, and no doubt the former would become an easier challenge to manage with more practice.

This brightening was slightly warmer than the last time she'd ventured forth to nock and loose arrows, but that was only evidenced by the absence of any flakes of snow. Physically, it felt much the same, though a bit more sunslight penetrated the forest canopy.

Cold fingers would always be less welcoming of the ping of a bowstring flicking against the skin, but they complained little nonetheless as Astra marked her targets, measured her paces, and pulled the fletching back until it touched her cheek.

The first two arrows missed their respective marks, both flying too high and off to the right, missing the trees entirely. Fortunately, there was enough light for Astra to retrieve them without too much difficulty. The next two arrows went closer, as the half-elfess adjusted her aim. The third ricocheted off the side of the tree and fell at the base of the trunk, while the fourth struck its tree hard, burying itself in the bark, albeit too high.

It was the last of the arrows that went closest. By using the various inaccuracies of the previous arrows to guide her, Astra was able to send it into the fifth tree, the arrowhead puncturing the upper right tip of the 'X'.

No perfect shots, but that was the very reason she was practicing and honing her skills, was it not?
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Old January 29, 2019, 05:34 PM   #10
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Astra was disappointed as she looked at the missed first four targets. But she was happy the fifth arrow had stuck - albeit to the top right of her target - but that atleast that was something she could work with.

Sticking with the fifth tree, Astra re-took her stance and made sure her body was properly aligned with the target. She made sure her feet were steady and decided that instead of aiming for the middle of the X (as she did before) that she would aim bottom left and hoped that would counter her last efforts. She was determined to get better and if that meant she had to take it slow, then take it slow she would.

She nocked her arrow and pulled the string back to her mouth. She pulled her shoulders tight and breathed in slow and steady. She focused on the bottom right of the X and then fired.
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Old January 29, 2019, 08:21 PM   #11
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Astra would find that her slower and much more cautious approach would pay dividends. Lacking the urge to rush to empty her quiver, the half-elfess was able to take her time, steady her breathing, and let loose.

The string almost flicked against her cheek as the arrow took flight, the shaft bending invisibly as it crossed the distance from archer to target. The adjustments the brunette had made were effective. The arrow bit into the tree with a satisfying crunch as the head pierced the bark just to the left of where the two lines of the 'X' intersected.

So she had over corrected, albeit slightly, but the shot was still a fine one. Not having to contend with wind in the shelter of the Loremark Forest meant Astra could focus on honing her skills.
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Old February 8, 2019, 03:05 PM   #12
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Astra relaxed and felt satisfied with her last shot. Though it wasn't perfect, she was happy with how close the arrow was to the centre of the target. She thought if she could'nt hit the centre at least getting close more often than not would make her future hunting attempts more successful.

Astra decided to move to back to the first target and try again. Trying to replicate the stance she had with the previous target, Astra aligned her body with the first target, steadied her feet and nocked her next arrow.

She focused on the bottom left of the X, took in a soft breath and pulled the string back. With the string nestled beside the corner of her mouth, Astra paused for just a moment to steady her concentration, then released the arrow.

With her feet still firmly in place, Astra nocked another arrow and tried to replicate her movements as much as possible. She pulled the string to the same corner of her mouth, aimed and released the second arrow.
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Old February 8, 2019, 05:53 PM   #13
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Practice.

It wasn't easy, but it had an uncanny knack for improving one's abilities, especially when past errors were corrected. Astra's adjustments proved fruitful, with the first arrow pierced the 'X' precisely at its centre, puncturing it so that once the arrow was removed, it would reveal four separate, short lines.

The second arrow wasn't quite so precise. Its release from the bow was less smooth, and it arced slightly to the left, biting into the bark a few inches wide of the target. Evidently, not every arrow would do as it was told just yet.

And then it happened. With a pair of arrows remaining in her quiver, a snapping sound reached Astra's slightly pointed ears. If she were to turn, she'd spy a deer off to her right, approximately fifty paces away. It was slightly further away than the half-elfess had been practicing with her targets, but even from that distance, she could see its muscles tensing from the noise of the broken stick. It was looking in Astra's general direction, though it wasn't clear if the creature had seen the archeress. It's eyes were wide as it sniffed the air, the deer seemingly ready to flee at the slightest provocation.
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