I, the amazing Gregory, am going to the edge of the woods after a long day at work when I pass Alira flirting with a palace guard. He’s bragging about how he won the Archery Tournament last year. Please, the only reason he was even able to place was because I moved here a month after the tournament. Besides, does it really matter that he won first place in the tournament if he can’t even do his job right? I’m fairly sure “making pretty girls feel your biceps” isn’t part of a palace guard’s job description. I don’t want to interfere with Alira’s life, I mean she can make her own choices, but I do think she should make an educated decision. That’s why I’m competing in this year’s tournament, so that when I win she’ll realize I’m way better than whatever that guy’s name is. I mean sure he’s an alright archer, has a stable job, extraordinary pecs, and a facial structure to make an elf jealous, but his personality definitely sucks. I’ve never met him, I’m just sort of assuming. I plan to continue past them quickly and silently, but then he leans in to kiss her. There just happens to be a rock in front of my foot and unfortunately it goes flying at his face and hits him in the nose.
I walk kind of quickly after that, so I don’t know what goes on behind me. I just continue to my little spot at the edge of the woods. I had set it up so I could practice archery. I used my knife to carve a target into a tree, and I’d stand about one hundred feet away and shoot at it. I’ve been practicing like this since I moved here, and dents from my arrows form a cluster near the center. I unstrap the bow from my back and place the string into the arrow’s notch. I pull back on the string until my fingers reach my cheek, and allow the arrow’s shaft to rest on the fingers of my other hand. The arrow flies straight, hitting almost the exact center of the target. Smiling, I reach for my next arrow to repeat the process. I pull back to fire my second arrow, then hear a loud snap right by my ear and feel a sharp pain in my finger. I flail a bit, holding my injured finger and throw that stupid bow as far as possible. I don’t usually curse, but in that moment I let out a few choice words. After a minute, I calm down. My fingers are fine, though there’s a mark where the bowstring whipped me. I pick the unused arrow off the ground and set about finding my bow. To be honest, this has happened before, and that bow has quite a few scratches from being thrown through the trees.
I threw the bow into the woods past the target, so that’s where I go to search for it. As I venture into the woods the trees get closer together until I realize I’m way farther than I could have thrown anything. I scan more as I exit the forest, but there’s no sign of my bow.
Without a bow, I won’t be able to win the competition, and there’s basically no way to get girls without winning things, so I run to a shop at the other end of town. It sells weapons mostly, though I did see a fishing rod one time.
I burst through the door and run through the line of people to talk to the owner.
“I need a bow,” I state.
The guy looks at me for a second.
“None left. If you got any more questions, please wait in line.”
I trudge back to the end of the line. To occupy myself I examine the surrounding weapons. They’re cool, but I have no clue how to use most of them. One weapon I had learned to use was a sword. I had started practicing with my father’s when I was twelve, but never had one of my own. There is a particularly nice one in the corner. I was examining it when I heard the owner clear his throat. I raise my head, finding that both people in line had gone. I bring the sword over to the counter.
“That all?” he asks me.
“You said there’s no more bows?”
“Yep, all sold out.”
Okay, that happens sometimes, but he can get more right?
“When will there be some again?” I question.
“Pro’ly not for another five days.”
Five days!? But the tournament is in three!
“Nothing before the competition?”
“Nope. I got double the usual amount of ‘em in my last shipment, but I guess that wasn’t enough.”
“Alright.” I turn back to the exit. “Thanks.”
I trudge my way to the door, but after about two steps, the man clears his throat again. I look back and remember the sword on the counter. I shuffle backwards then turn to the man.
“If you really need a bow,” he begins as I pay him, “the next town over has a couple shops. I’d guarantee at least one of ‘em has a bow left.”
“Thank you!” I call back as I run out of the shop.
I sprint home faster than a flying arrow and pack for the trip. It’s already nearing sunset, but I need that bow. I suppose waiting for morning wouldn’t make that big of a difference. It would definitely be safer to wait, but I need that bow. I need to make a name for myself in this town. Alira is the most incredible woman I’ve ever seen, but I doubt she’s ever noticed me. If I wait for morning, I’ll have less time to practice with it, which could seriously impact my performance. It’s only one town over anyway. I should be fine; I have my new sword.
I ride into the dark woods on Bagelby, then remember to use the nearby road. I haven’t traveled since arriving here, so I kind of forgot it existed. Once on the right track, I continue at a gallop. It is dark, even with the lantern I brought, and I almost run into a tree when the road twisted sharply. Thankfully, I turn in time, but I think someone ought to take care of that. I go along a while more, then slow to a walk and dismount so the horse can rest.
We continue across the packed dirt road when I hear a low growl from the trees beside me. I turn my lantern to see six pairs of glowing eyes. I reach for my sword - thank God for impulse shopping - just as a snarling wolf leaps from the woods. I unsheath my sword, prepared to fight them off. As I do that I accidentally let go of Bagelby’s reins. The horse runs away, which leaves me room to do this super cool twirly sword-fighting move that I made up when I was thirteen. It works pretty well, although I almost drop my sword. I injure two of the wolves, and the rest are scared enough to run off. I sit against a tree waiting for Bagelby to return. After about five minutes I figure he isn’t coming. Now that I am missing a horse I could either go back or continue on foot. If I go back there’s no chance of getting a bow and I’d have to wait until next year to enter the competition. By that time Alira will probably be married to that stupid palace guard and I’ll have lost my chance.
It’ll take a day to walk there, but if I get a horse while in town I can get back in half a day. I’ll be cutting it close, but I should be able to make it. I take off at a sprint, but tire after a minute. The woods feel darker somehow without Bagelby. Colder, too. I hope he’s okay without me. He’s a smart horse, and I told him where we were headed so maybe he’ll meet me there. I sure hope so. I miss him.
I walk mainly, with a short dash on occasion to mix things up. The trees all look the same, with one exception. There’s an oak tree with branches twice the size of my waist, and some even bigger. I’m exhausted from travel, and figure this is a nice enough place to sleep tonight. I climb up a branch and settle in for the night’s rest.
I wake up around noon and mentally kick myself for sleeping so late. My stomach growls, reminding me of Bagelby and his saddlebags filled with bagels and peanut butter. I do hope he made it to our destination.
I walk all day, but fail to arrive at the town. My estimate was off, I guess, but it’s not like I can turn back now. I’ve been walking all day, so I have no choice but to rest for the night and start up again in the morning.
Thankfully, I awaken with the sun and make it to town quickly. The shop is clearly labeled and I’m able to find a good bow. Next thing I need is a horse. I check out a stable and notice my own Bagelby! He walks over to me and nuzzles my hair a bit. I explain to the stable boy that he’s mine, I just lost him on my way. While explaining I see Bagelby out of the corner of my eye nuzzling another horse. The stable boy says I still need to pay for Bagelby, but he’s willing to give me a discount. I try to lead my horse out of the stable but he resists. Sighing, I ask the stable boy how much this other horse is gonna cost me.
I name her Nutty Butter, since she’s peanut butter colored. I’m pleased to find she’s fast as the three of us head back home.
It takes less than half a day for us to get back, since we run full speed the whole way. The entire time I keep glancing over at Bagelby and Nutty Butter. They’re kind of cute together. Although, there’s also the fact that my horse has a girlfriend and I don’t. I can’t be mad at Bagelby, I mean he’s a horse, but seriously? Horse’s aren’t even supposed to have girlfriends. Maybe I’ll just need to live vicariously through him. Maybe that’s why my horse in particular has a girlfriend. No, I can’t think like that. I have a bow, I have mad skills, and soon enough I’ll have the girl.
We’re cantering as fast as the horses are able. We’re so close to home, we’ll be there any second now. A turn comes up almost out of nowhere and Bagelby doesn’t have time to slow down. He does his best to turn but skids instead and we slam into a tree. My leg is bleeding, but all I can do is glare at that wretched tree.
“You. I knew you would do something like this.” I continue to stare down the tree as we exit the forest, ignoring the bleeding scratches on my leg.
I arrive and notice Alira sitting with the palace guard. They are eating bagels with butter. Poor Alira probably doesn’t know how amazing bagels taste when paired with peanut butter. My name is called to shoot next. I thought I’d gotten back in time to practice with my bow, but apparently not.
I jump off of Bagelby and run over to shoot. I string an arrow onto my new bow. The rules are simple, I fire five arrows and the best three are counted. That means I have two shots to try and get used to this bow. I try to pull the string back to my cheek, but its tighter than I’m used to and my hand slips. The arrow fires into the dirt four feet below my target. Okay, I know how the string feels at least. I place the notch of another arrow onto the string and pull back, stopping a little before the corner of my mouth. I aim directly in the center of the target and release my arrow. It flies through the air, only to join the other one in the dirt.
Right, I forgot. Since the string isn’t being pulled back as far the arrow won’t go as straight as I’m used to. It’ll make an arc instead, so I have to aim above where I want it to go. The question is, how far above the center do I need to aim? I string another arrow, trying to figure out where to aim it based on how the other one landed. I think 6 inches should be alright, but I’m not sure. I lift the bow and pull back the arrow. No way to find out other than to try. I let go and the arrow soars, embedding itself in the target. Unfortunately, it was the outer edge of the target.
I have no chance of first, but I can still do well. This means I’ll need my next two to get into the center. Six inches wasn’t enough, so this time I aim completely above the target. It feels weird to aim so differently from where I plan to put the arrow, but I think it’ll work this time. I notch the arrow, pull back the string, and let loose the arrow which flies in an arc and plants itself firmly in the center.
Yes! Now all I need to do is get one more arrow in the center with it, and I’ll at least get third. Sure, its not first, but I can still slyly mention it to Alira. I place my final arrow on the string and pull it back, stopping just before the corner of my mouth. I aim for the same spot as last time. As I let go of the string I see Alira out of the corner of my eye. She’s giggling at something that stupid guard said. Quite a cute little giggle, though. I don’t realize what I’m doing, but I turn slightly in order to see her clearly. The arrow shoots from my bow and, now realizing what just happened, I turn back hoping I didn’t move too much.
I watch as the arrow flies through the air and takes its place in the tree beside the target. It missed completely. A judge marks the number of points I recieved and I gather my arrows.
I return to my horses and make a bagel. I begin to take a bite when a brilliant idea comes to me. I’m tempted to eat it, but I have extraordinary willpower so I refrain. Mr. Palace Guard Guy is shooting, so Alira is off to the side watching him. I approach her with the bagel.
“Umm, Alira.” I say “Um hi I just wanted to uh give you this here um bagel.”
She takes the bagel “Is that peanut butter on it? That’s my favorite!” She answers. She looks back at the guard. “I wish Brom liked them this way.”
She turns back to me. “Oh! You’re bleeding!”
Oh yeah, I forgot my leg was bleeding.
“It’s nothing, just a scratch.” I try to brush it off.
“Come with me, I’ll bandage it for you.” She grabs my hand.
Huh, maybe competitions don’t matter after all.