The deer froze, a statue of honeyed brown barely discernible in the murky forest under story. Dappled sunlight played across bared patches, dancing spots of light that bounced through the stirring leaves.
We will not go hungry tonight, thought Samantha as she drew back on the bow-string, easing it with a slow sigh, then sighted down the shaft.
An ear flicked and from one second to the next, the doe was in full blurring flight.
The bow-string twanged as the deer bounced stiff-legged into motion and a second later she heard the solid thunk as the arrow lodged itself in the tree trunk, where seconds ago stood the prize. In three gigantic bounds, the deer was lost from sight.
Cursing, Samantha ran over to the tree to retrieve the arrow. Yanking the it out of the tree, she examined the tip and shaft. Satisfied that it would still fly true, it was tucked back into the quiver.
It would not do, to be found hunting on the kings lands, so grabbing a handful of dirt and leaves, she rubbed it into the raw gash in the bark of the tree, to disguise the miss.
Picking up the deer’s trail, she picked her way over fallen trunks and pushed through dense underbrush, keeping to the smooth rocky sections. It would be unwise to leave a trail anyone could follow back to the rebel’s camp.
Silently tracking the deer, it came as a shock when the trail opened abruptly onto a narrow meadow, in the center of which lay her deer, dead. It had been pierced by three arrows.
The meadow was lined by soldiers and the rest of those arrows were now aimed directly at Samantha.
“Lookie, Lookie, what do we have here?” A grizzled man with missing teeth stood in front of the ten other men, in a dirty captain’s tunic, the stripes torn off and threads hanging. So not soldiers, but worse, mercenaries; bounty hunters. “Out for a stroll hunting the king’s deer in his forest?” He nudged the dead deer with his toe. “Looks like we got it first, we will be eating well tonight!” Laughter rose from the encircling men.
“Hunting on the king’s land would be illegal poaching.” Samantha pulled a sharp metal hook from her belt and held it aloft for the men to see, making her movements slow.
“I was looking for wood to gather for my campfire, see? My hook fits on the end of my bow.” She screwed the threaded end of the hook onto the point of her bow, showing how it attached. “It’s not against the law to gather wood.”
“Then how did you happen to be right behind that doe?” The captain snorted, disbelief showing on his face.”
“Do I look like I could carry a side of venison anywhere?”
The men looked her up and down, leering.
“Well now, you look like you would be a nice handful, that’s for sure!”
Samantha licked her lips and began slowly backing into the trees. “I need to go now, enjoy your feast.” Turning she sprinted into the cover of the trees, followed by the thunk, thunk, thunk of arrows following her flight.
She ran for her life.
Every word she had stated had been true; however she had witnessed the mercenaries poaching on the land and that news could not make it back to the King. By hook or by crook, she would make it back to the rebel’s camp alive, to warn them that mercenaries were combing the woods for their hideout.
The true hunt was on.
Idiom:”By hook or crook” – By any means possible, in one way or another. This term has a disputed origin. a widely held theory is that it comes from the custom of allowing commoners to take as much wood from royal forests as they cold reach with a shepherd’s crook and cut down with a billhook (1300’s).
–From The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
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