[From The Three Worlds, book one. It's from Alexa's POV. Enjoy, lovelies.]
Clara hands me a bow. We’re in a clearing, the trees towering above us. Most of the leaves are on the ground now, giving it a colorful covering and the chilly air a thick scent of decomposition. Grandpa says it’ll snow any day now.
“You’re holding it upside down.” Clara’s voice doesn’t show any agitation or amusement. Neither does her face. She’s stoic.
I fix it. “Like this?” I have the string away from me and the handle toward me.
“Not unless you want to shoot Kenneth.”
I turn around. Kenneth is directly behind be, holding in his laughter. Blushing, I turn back around to find the tiniest inkling of a grin on Clara’s face.
“All right, now stand sideways, so your left shoulder is facing the target. You are right handed, aren’t you?”
“Yeah.” I turn.
“Now watch me.” She steps so she’s facing away from me. “The end of the arrow with the feathers, or the fletching, attaches to the string. This is the nock.” She points to the end of the arrow. “It goes right underneath the nock indicator.” She points to a metal knob thing on the string of the bow. “Load the arrow so the odd-colored feather is facing out.” She puts it on, pulls back, and aims at the target at the opposite end of the clearing. When she releases the string, the arrow flies straight and lands perfectly in the center.
“That was insane.”
“Normal. Your turn.” She faces me, her arms crossed and her blonde braid falling over her shoulder. I didn’t hear the pride in her voice, but I swear she’s standing a bit straighter. “Go on,” she says, and I realize I’m staring at her.
“Right. Uh…” I nock the arrow. She stops me, and I realize I have the odd-colored feather facing in. Fixing it, I step into position, pull back, and release. It flies far to the right of the target and lands in a tree. Cringing, I take a step back.
“No, no, no. Don’t move. A good archer never moves her feet while shooting. If you do, it ruins your consistency.”
“But you were running while you shot at me. You know, when I first came here.”
Clara rolls her eyes, as if she feels like she’s dealing with an incompetent student. But then I realize I am incompetent—when it comes to archery, anyway. I have no idea what I’m doing. “That’s different. I know what I’m doing. I was using a special bow, too. Besides—it’s not like I was trying to hit you.”
“What kind of special bow?”
“You’ll find out later. Shoot again.” She hands me another arrow.
I nock it, this time correctly, and aim. Pointing the arrow farther left, I take a deep breath, hoping it will hit the target this time. It doesn’t. It goes to the left of the target. But instead of the tree, it lands amongst a whole bunch of half-dead, tall weeds.
At the sound of the startled cry from the brush, my heart leaps, and my stomach contracts.