“What on Earth have I gotten myself into?” Muttered Hanna as she drew the bow.
“Just relax,” said Dean.
“Come on. Keep it straight,” added Dasmer. “You’re all bent.”
Hanna held her breath and tried to aim.
“A little higher,” whispered Dean, who crouched behind her, sighting down the arrow.
Hanna loosed the arrow. It dropped quickly and skipped along the ground to tap the base of the target.
“I can’t do this,” she grumbled.
“Sure you can,” said Dean softly. “Just relax.”
“Relax,” Hanna muttered.
“Straighten up,” barked Dasmer as she drew again. “It’ll go wrong.”
“It’s fine, Dasmer. She’ll be fine,” said Dean waving him off. “Now take a brea—.”
The arrow flew, sailing past the target into the grass beyond.
“See? I can’t do this. This is pointless.”
“His Majesty wishes—,” started Dasmer.
“Yes. I know,” said Hanna. “But miracles I cannot perform.”
“Lord Dasmer! A word if you will!” Markus was observing at the back of the range. Hanna frowned. No doubt Markus was not pleased with her performance.
Dasmer grunted and strode off. “Yes my Lord. Of course.”
Markus smiled faintly. “Now you, Hanna. You carry on. Dean will help you.”
“Me?” said Dean quietly. “All right.”
“I’m done with this,” Hanna moaned. “I don’t want to do this any more.”
“We’ll empty your quiver,” said Dean. “Then we’ll rest.”
Hanna eyed the quiver at her hip. Ten arrows remained. Ten more chances at humiliation.
“Aye, Dasmer.” Hanna could hear Markus, though he was no longer speaking to her. “What think you is the matter here?” Hanna could not understand Dasmer’s reply.
“Breathe in. Breathe out,” said Dean. “Let us relax ourselves a bit.” Dean led Hanna through some breathing exercises for a minute. “Now, keep breathing. Nock an arrow.” Hanna complied. “Raise your bow and draw.” Hanna pulled the string and held her breath. “No. Breathe. Breathe, Hanna.”
Hanna’s breath left her mouth explosively. She tried to breathe normally. “I—.”
“Shhh. Just breathe. And aim.” Dean crouched behind Hanna again, observing her aim. “See, it’s going up and down with you. Work with it. Then loose your arrow when you’re ready.”
Hanna waited, watching the point of the arrow shift with her breath. She released the string.
“Holy crap!” she said. “I didn’t think I’d ever hit the target.”
“Hold, Hanna,” said Dean calmly. “Breathe. And do it again. Nock an arrow.”
Hanna drew and paused as before, then let the arrow fly.
“Wow,” she said.
“Again, Hanna. Keep going.”
Hanna aimed quickly and released the arrow. It missed wide.
“Don’t hurry, Hanna. Just breathe.”
“But in battle, there’s no time for—.”
“This is not the battlefield, Hanna. Nock your arrow.”
Hanna raised the bow and waited. When she released the arrow, she was rewarded with a satisfying thack!
“Again,” Dean whispered.
Five more arrows Hanna let fly. Five more times came the satisfying sound of the target being pierced. Hanna reached for another arrow and was startled to find her quiver empty.
“I shot them all.”
“Good,” said Dean clapping her gently on the shoulder. “I think you’ve done well.”
“I can’t believe I actually hit the target,” said Hanna.
“I’m not surprised,” said Markus, who had approached after she was done shooting. “I’d expect no less from you.”
“Range is clear. Let’s collect our arrows,” called Dasmer.
“It’s a good cluster,” said Dean.
“But no bullseyes. I got all around it,” said Hanna.
“Aye, but they’d be dead just the same.” Markus leaned close to Hanna. “Relaxation is the key. And don’t let others trouble you. You know what you need to do.” Markus straightened up. “Aye, his Majesty will be pleased. Perhaps you’ll join him on the hunt yet.”
“Hunt?” Hanna winced.
“Aye Lady. The hunt.” Markus grinned and gripped her shoulder. “You’re nearly ready.”