The night air was cold, and dry.

            Kalan Banecroft slowly worked his way across the forest, his eyes picking out the path before him. He held the big longbow lightly in his hands, the arrow notched and tight on the string. He sensed more than saw the buck across the valley, grazing on a sparse patch of grass.

            It was only the third deer he had seen this week. The other two had been thin almost to the bone, licking the snow from the forest floor, trying to find some sort of feed on the bare ground. It would be a waste to kill them. He and Mari had plenty of hides. This hunt was for the meat.

            Kalan had been away from the house for three days now, trying to find fresh meat. He had gathered a sackful of herbs and assorted vegetables, wild onions and carrots and mushrooms, but what he and Mari really needed was meat. They had run out almost two months before, and the traps Kalan had set stayed bare. His horse, Downer, had barely been able to find any grass on the ground. Kalan had been feeding him out of the vegetable bag for the last two days.

            Kalan inched closer to his prey, holding his longbow in front of his body. He straightened slowly next to a large oak tree and took aim for the broadside. He knew his fingertips were going numb from the cold, but he blocked the sensation from his mind and concentrated on the target. He gently pulled the bowstring back as far as possible, and let the arrow fly.

            The soft zip of the arrow seemed loud in the quiet morning stillness. The deer bolted from the patch of grass, moving about ten paces before dropping to the ground, dead. Kalan slowly let out the breath he had been holding. He walked over to the animal, pulling out his knife. He could almost taste the stew that Mari would make.

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