Innocence by Era Millings

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SUMMARY: Would have been entry for September Flash Fiction contest, if I had not been such a procrastinator. I hope the effort is appreciated anyway...

A cluster of stars was the only lighting in a deep dark that brought the arrival of the blackest part of night. The moon was new, and the wolves and other nocturnal hunters reveled in the emptiness it presented. Their prey would be unsuspecting. It would be an easy hunt.

And yet, for me, the hunt was anything but easy.

Closing my eyes, I was reassured by the darkness behind my eyelids a few more moments before the ebony voids that had earned me the title of "Witchmaid" saw the lighter dark of the nighttime world again. It was almost calming, the way it fell around me like a blanket, but on a night like tonight, it seemed like anything but. A grimace upon my face, I smoothed a non-existent wrinkle on my skin-tight trousers, which hugged closer around my toned legs than was comfortable, but it was what Master had insisted I wear for the hunts. It would make me more silent and stealthy, which was what he wanted. Inconspicuousness was what made a hunt. For when the moment came that the prey finally noticed you, it would be too late.

Too late. Too late for poor, innocent Jairo. My Jairo.

I struggled not to let the lump in my throat overwhelm me. It must be done. Master had ordered me to do it, and so I had to. I had to.

Trying to console myself, I leaned against the sturdy tree that concealed me with its cavernous shadows. Deep breathing always took the anxiety away. But not this night. Not this hunt. Not this prey. Not my love.

Forgoing that method, I instead stroked the weapon in my hands. The carved wood was slick, and felt strong and dangerously powerful in my hands. But beneath its malevolent exterior, I felt what it had been once: oak. A grandiose, mighty tree that had stood over the centuries before it was slain for the workers of evil, its trunk rotting at the core, the branches that had once spread out for leagues broken while all around the land was uprooted, and everything died because it - a giver of life - did as well.

And now it was to be a taker of life.

Then there was the flint of the ragged tip. Once it had been apart of a mountain, one that had been strong enough to withstand storm and erosion, before, of all things, man had come along and pierced it cruelly, taking with their greedy, filthy hands the rocky offspring to make killing devices. Had the mountain flinched and groaned as it was torn apart? Had it been shaken where it stood?

Perhaps no one would ever know, but I knew that tonight the black obsidian, whose lifeforce was the death awaiting Jairo would not be shaken. The broadhead would do the job well.

Lastly, my fingers glided over the most important part of this grievous weapon: the feather, so soft and downy. This one was especially significant, as it differed from the normal goose or turkey plumage that was often used: instead, it bore the marks of a raven, a noble bird whose existence was often analogous with misfortune, and even death. It was cursed, I knew, to be the fletching that would guide this weapon, this arrow, to the very heart of the quarry.

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