We had decided that I needed weapons training. My physical stature did not suggest I would win if going toe to toe with a werewolf so we needed something I could defend myself with from a long distance. We finally determined I would learn to master the longbow.
The only problem to this was finding one as the crossbow had superseded the longbow in popularity since the Holy War. They were almost nonexistent now.
I had asked Marek why a long instead of a cross. I was determined to learn either but why waste energy trying to locate an almost extinct weapon when a newer, more powerful one, was readily available anywhere? He informed me that the crossbow took a longer amount of time to reload and time was precious when dealing with werewolves. I would need to be fast. The longbow was my only option.
We were at our third village before our quest had been given a small ray of hope of succeeding. The blacksmith pointed us to a lone cottage outside of town.
It had been a long two days hunting down a longbow maker. Raised eyebrows and snickers at the sight of the two of us. A little girl and her massive dog. Had Marek been a smaller canine, I would have found myself in more trouble as strangers are not taken lightly in small villages. Especially a girl asking about weapons. A small, defenseless girl. Men had only dreamt of such a thing. It was a chilling thought. But once they caught sight of my intimating friend, they forgot their fantasies and sent me on my way.
The cottage we approached wasnt really a cottage but more of a shack. The whole building was leaning to one side as if one strong gust of wind could bring it crashing down on us. The roof had many holes and I felt bad for the poor soul inside should rain come through. As we got closer, I caught the scent of mildew from the rotting wood. I secretly hoped no one was home. Surely they had abandoned this place long ago... atleast I hope they had. For their safety.
I knocked on the door. Gently. I didn't want to collapse the whole house. I got no reply from the other side.
Marek sniffed underneath the door.
"I cant do that! We have to be invited in."
No one to invite us in.
I sighed. I was sighing a lot lately. I opened the door and quietly entered the small shack. All types of bows and different arrows lined the wall nearest the door. I was ecstatic we would finally have what we had been searching for.
I saw a figure at the table.
"Hello?" No answer, not even an acknowledgement of my greeting.
"Pardon me, sir?" Still nothing.
"What?" I asked him as I approached the man, slumped in his chair, chin to chest. I put my hand on his shoulder and shook him before I realized what "No use" actually meant.
The stiff body fell off the chair onto the floor with a loud thump. I jumped back, startled. He was dead.
You never listen to me.
"Would it have been so hard for you to say 'Addy, just walk in, hes dead, he wont care,' hm?" I asked, frustrated.
He chuckled, studying the bows.
I joined him, touching each one, occasionally pulling on their strings. Marek stopped at one, higher up than his eye level. It was displayed separately from the others and hung proudly by itself. He stood on his hind legs and sniffed the air.
"What's so special about this one?"
Cant explain. Just is. Will kill many. Must take.
"But how do you know?"
Warrior. Vision. Know.
"Well alright then." The mystical powers of a Warrior just didnt phase me anymore. If he says this is the one, then it is the one.
"What arrows do we need," I asked as I grabbed a quiver from the counter.
He sniffed the arrows. They were sorted into different containers. They had no description so even if I had known which type to use, I wouldn't have found the right ones without Marek. He got three containers down from the very last and started sneezing. Over and over. He finally shook his body and all was well.
These. Laced with Mercury. They wont kill werewolves, but when severly wounded we turn back to canine. A kill shot taken while in that form will end us.
"Good to know." I took all that would fit in my quiver, then grabbed the container of regular, dull practice arrows. I didnt want to waste the lethal ones on target practice.
Marek reminded me I needed to find an archer glove that fit my small hand. After what seemed like a lifetime of searching, I finally located one. In the child section. Of course.
We started the four day trip back to Naevia's. I would need to be shown how to pull my arrow and what strength to use in what situations. Because she was human and a trusted ally, Marek thought it best to utilize her for such a task. Gee, wouldn't it be much easier if you could turn human and teach me instead? I asked him bitterly. He snorted at me.
The way back went fairly quickly as I played with my bow, getting a feel for it. How quickly could I whipped it out in front of me standing still versus running? Was it harder to do when crouching? Was I able to crouch and turn to shoot? Left. Right. Behind me. I played with the string, making myself knowledgeable in the different tensions. These were things I needed to eventually master so I thought it best to start early. Marek, fortunately, couldnt criticize me as he had never used one himself, I later found out.
Naevia was pleased, but a little concerned with our safety. She insisted on fighting with us. In between my bow lessons, she would practice transitioning into her werewolf self.
It took several days but she was finally able to do it, though not without some pain and discomfort. I was in awe as she was only slightly smaller than Marek's werewolf form, which was still sizably larger than the rest of the pack. Her fur matched her hair color, gray and old. Her right eye still held the cataract, while her left maintained the same deep violet hue.
It took a couple weeks for me to get good at hitting a target. My first day, the arrows barely left the bow, not getting any air and falling right infront of my feet. I didnt realize the force it required to shoot such a weapon. The next two days were spent attempting to give the bow enough power to puncture my target. They could soar now, but would only bounce off the tree we had painted as a makeshift target.
I practiced every day from sun up until sundown. My arms were stiff and burning but I forced myself to carry on. I didnt have the luxury of months to become skilled. By the end of my second week, I could easily spin around and shoot, hitting my target dead on, from any distance. My shot was always fatal.
Marek licked my face, Proud of you.
However, moving targets were a whole different story. I tried hunting birds and deer but couldnt get the timing right. It took another week and a half to become good enough. We were out of time.
We had to return to the castle.