Winter was reaching its end. The days were still short and cold, damp and gray. In the Ring Islands, spring and summer were the best months for ship building, what they were known for. Cal dreamed of the day he would have his own and said the seas. No family banner on his sails, one of his own, crimson and black, emerald and gold? He thought of often, many ways for many to fear him. One day, he would want to ride the seas as a pirate. Plundering and raving with men under his own command, as his father did once. “Come now, follow the tracks.”, Valor whispered.
His dream would have to wait. Today, he would try to best his brother in hunting. Valor had already caught four rabbits and it had taken what seemed like hours to find another. Most of the time they went into the woods alone, outside the palace gates with no escorts. It was Cal’s favorite time, the youngest of four children, three boys and a girl, a boy born in peace, without a right of passage to manhood, his father would say. Perhaps he would get the chance soon, the thought often stirred like hot soup in his belly, they had received news months ago but father had yet to give his commands. In the mean time, Cal would do his best to train; with swords most days, he had even beaten Valor two times out of a hundred, and his archery was getting better almost always hitting his target. He had learned to not trust his eyes so much, his vision was somewhat blurry when things were far away, he trusted in something else instead.
“There…”, he whispered to himself. He saw a white rabbit moving in the snows. Fat with red eyes, it must’ve woke too early out of its hibernation. He nocked his arrow, with his brother in his ear. “Now relax… focus…”, Cal took in air and softly pushed it out. He took his time to aim, his chance was here and he did not want to waste it. The still cold air as fresh snow fell, “Hurry… don’t take too long.”, his brother said, Cal’s arm began to tire. Before it could fall he released the air. The sound of the arrow zipping through the air and the thump it made when it planted into a near tree knocked Cal out his trance. He looked as well as he could, his vision was not the best. He saw the rabbit, twitch and then… nothing. Blood drained from its body and on to the snow.
“Well done.”, his brother tapped him on the shoulder and smiled, “Go on.”, Cal had to retrieve his kill. It was an awkward thing, killing. It was hunting up until now, as he walked toward the creature, his steps shorter and shorter, until he almost trips over his own feet. Its eyes were open, death was nothing new, he had saw its affects on his grandfathers and his grandmothers, one of his uncles, and even another who death takes its sweet time with.
But this was his doing, his alone, the instrument from his own hand, animal and one day some day, man. He grabbed the arrow, being careful not to touch the body, he gripped and pulled tightly to get the arrow of the grooves. His heart raced as he tried to retrieve the arrow. After a moment he realized it was no use. He pulled the rabbit by its ears and tail until the arrow had gone all the way through. It was heavy in his hands. For an instant he thought of how fat it was and then remembered what his brother told him, “The body turns cold and hard, like ice…”, the fowl smell filled his nose and a taste in his mouth, “They also shit and piss themselves.”, he added. He nearly dropped the thing at that moment. He held it by its ears and continued back his brother. He placed the kill in his pouch and looked up beyond the naked branches. The sun was beginning to set.