The sun rose slowly over the great oak trees that nearly engulfed a small clearing. Its rays warmed the earth upon which it gazed. A group a wrens picked at some seeds that were hidden beneath a patch of lush grass. Their chirps and whistles filled the fresh morning air. A feeling of content tranquility rested upon the forest.
Slowly the crackling sound of someone treading upon undergrowth broke the peace. Soon a tall man entered through the trees into the clearing. His curly, dark brown hair ruffled slightly in the gentle morning breeze. He was clad in black slacks and a buttoned white shirt. Slung across his shoulder was a full quiver and a stout wooden longbow.
Upon arriving at the center of the clearing, the man laid his bow and quiver gently on the ground. For a moment, he remained still and silent, surveying his surroundings and breathing deeply the purifying air. His gaze then landed on a nearby tree which stood roughly thirty yards from him. Attached midway up its trunk hung a familiar rounded target. The man then picked the quiver off the ground and securely placed it on his back. Reaching for the bow, he held it still for a minute while inspecting for any deformities or cracks. When satisfied with its condition, he contemplatively pulled the string taut, paused, and then slowly returned it to the original position. Taking a deep breath, the man in a single, fluid motion quickly drew an arrow and sent it flying towards the tree. The arrow found its mark in the direct center of the target with a dull thud. A second immediately followed striking the nock of the first and cutting a sliver out of the wood.
The man paused for a moment to observe his shots. Apparently pleased with the outcome, he smiled halfheartedly and placed a third arrow on the string. Suddenly the sound of soft clapping broke the silence.
“Well done, Bran. You are a man of many talents it seems.”
Turning around, he beheld a tall woman. She appeared to be in her early to mid twenties. Her wavy flaxen blonde hair which fell to just beyond her shoulders was speckled with golden highlights. She had streamlined yet piercing hazel eyes. Her nose was soft and complemented her face, which bore a naturally complacent expression. She wore dark grey legging jeans with midcalf leather boots. For a top, she sported a purple blouse over which hung a black jacket. Around her neck dangled a small silver cross.
Lowering his bow, Bran greeted the woman, “Miss Churchill, this is a pleasant surprise. What is the reason for this particular honor?”
The woman gestured haphazardly with her hands. “I came to pick up your gracious donation for my fundraiser. The doorman said you were out here; so I came to thank you again for your gift.”
“It was the least I could do really. You fight a righteous battle. I truly hope you succeed in your aspirations.”
The woman, brushing a few locks of hair from her face, moved closer to where Bran stood fiddling with his bow’s string. “We do need help. Your further involvement would always be welcomed.”
“My work in America…”. Bran raised the bow and quickly loosed another arrow at the target. “...is complicated, Miss Churchill, but do know that I would seize the opportunity to help should it arise.”
Reaching out, the woman gently placed a hand on Bran’s shoulder for a split second in a reassuring manner.
“Of course. I know you would if you could. Don’t worry. I shall find help elsewhere.” Gracefully stooping over, she picked up an arrow that had fallen to the ground and inspected it for a moment before handing it to Bran. “I didn’t know you used an English longbow.”
Bran chuckled slightly at her mention of the object he held is his hand. “They were Welsh longbows far before the English adopted the weapon that won Agincourt, and I would hardly be Cymraeg if I didn’t know the inner workings of one” He spun the bow in a few times in pride before handing it to her. “Please, be my guest, Miss Churchill.”
Bran watched as the woman took the bow contemplatively from him. She rotated it slowly in her grasp, seemingly admiring the craftsmanship. He couldn’t help but smile as he saw a sparkle light up in her eyes. Reaching back into his quiver, Bran offered an arrow. She gave a soft, small laugh as she received it. “And you use wooden arrows as well… Your adherence to tradition is amiable. Please, do call me Felicity.”
The name stirred Bran as if it was his first time hearing it. The name, as its owner, was, simultaneously, mystical and beautiful, reminiscent of a Scottish glen on a crisp, foggy morning. “Some mock me for my use of an archaic projectile. In many cases, a more modern arrow would be beneficial. I don’t shun this fact, but I do hold a special place in my heart for the wooden arrows. After all, there were accounts of Cymraeg bowmen penetrating a four inch-thick, solid oak door with their weapons during the siege of Abergavenny Castle.”
His monologue regarding the merits of wooden arrows seemed to amuse Felicity as her musical laughter filled the forest. “Wooden arrows it is then. You’ve convinced me.” Her contagious smile filled Bran with a warmth that seemed to clear his mind. For a moment, all felt right in the world.
Bran watched as Felicity gracefully took a few leisurely steps away from him. Turning towards the target, she pulled the bowstring back with infallible form. Then taking a deep, controlled breath, she released the arrow which flew towards the tree and struck Bran’s first arrow directly on the nock before being deflected. After admiring her shot, she returned the bow with what appeared to be a slightly self satisfied grin.
“Now then, wooden arrows are quite exceptional really. You do have good judgement, Mr. Brychanson.”
A half smile appeared on Bran’s face. Her skill with the bow was a surprise, but it was a pleasant one.
“You have a hidden talent. I am impressed.”
Felicity shrugged carelessly and returned his compliment with a sly smile. “There’s more to me than meets the eye.”
Setting down the longbow, Bran lapsed into silence. He and Felicity stood there for a few minutes, gazing at one another. It was as if they were trying to delve into each other’s mind, to see what lay behind the thoroughly practiced artificial mannerisms.
A soft buzzing sound broke the tranquil silence, and Felicity slid a hand into her jacket’s pocket and retrieved a cellular phone. After a quick glance, she looked up and gave an apologetic smile.
“This is truly a bother. I must take my leave. It has certainly been a pleasure to see you though.”
Bran nodded his head. “Likewise. This has been a pleasant morning. We will see each other again. Do have a wonderful day.”
It seemed to Bran that she lingered a moment in hesitation before turning and gracefully making her way out of the wooded clearing. He stood there for a few minutes, watching her depart. Once she was out of sight, he returned to his longbow. Raising it contemplatively, he released a shallow, tired sigh. It had been a fascinating morning, and he looked forward to what the future would bring.
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